Check out Chapter 4, in which Mimi shares her origin story. How did she become homeless? How has she survived for centuries in the giant walking city of Manhatsten?
If you haven’t already you can find the previous chapters at the following links.
Life on the street is hard. Drug dealers, thieves, and even the security officers of the giant walking city of Manhatsten are up to no good. But somehow, Mimi’s done it for centuries. Of course, it helps that she is able to peak into other people’s minds and avoid trouble most of the time. Unfortunately, that same talent is about to get her into a whole other world of trouble. One that she never even knew existed.
An Ancient Past
Mimi lay naked, feeling the softness of Shannon’s skin on hers. Their bodies pressed closer as she pulled a blanket up over them. If she was going to do this, she wanted to feel Shannon close to her, wanted to feel the comfort of her touch. Shannon was much longer than her, but their slender forms accented each other perfectly.
“I’m gonna start at the beginning, if that’s okay. I have to warn you, some of this is going to be hard to believe, and I know the fact that I have been hiding a lot of things may not help you believe me, but I swear to you, everything I am about to tell you is the truth, Okay?”
“Okay.” Shannon was afraid, but the fact they had just made love had helped ease some of that fear. Mimi hoped her story wouldn’t be too much for her, but there was only one way to find out.
“I was born in the third century after the city began its migration. Hard to believe, I know, but my father died in the second uprising after the city began moving. My mother, who became pregnant only days before my father was killed, did her very best to survive in the city alone. She managed to find a job. She had a place to live in the lowers, and began trying to put a life together for me. It was hard. I have a lot of memories of the first years of my life of my mother bringing home security personnel for favors and extra credits.”
Shannon frowned. “She sold herself?”
Mimi nodded. “She did what she had to do to survive. And because of it, she was able to get me into a school in the Lower Mids. One of her regulars had a contact there. It was my mother’s hope that I could move up into the mids and out of the lowers. The school was even on the 15th level.”
“15th? But I thought Lowers needed a special pass to move above ten?”
“Yeah, this guard got me one. I guess he must have really liked my mother. But I can’t imagine it was that hard, I mean it’s not like he was trying to get access above the 40th level where the Uppers live, right?”
Shannon nodded, “Still, it couldn’t have been that easy. Wait, how did you end up homeless?”
Mimi frowned, “I’m getting to that.” She shifted her body around and became Shannon’s big spoon. Her skin was so soft and warm. She nuzzled Shannon for a moment, then took deep breaths inward, taking in her scent. For the moment at least, she felt safe.
“Things went alright for a while. The mid school was much harder than the lower one, but I’m not stupid, so I did okay. Mostly I pulled average marks. But then my thirteenth birthday rolled around, and everything changed.”
“See, I think my mother had become addicted to something. I started to notice changes in her behavior. It was small at first, but after a while, she started to scream at me for not finishing simple chores. A few times she hit me, nothing terrible, mind you, but she did. Before I was twelve, my mother had never raised a hand to me, not once. She had barely ever raised her voice.
Shannon turned to face Mimi again. She was looking directly into her eyes, and Mimi hesitated for a moment and swallowed hard.
“One night, a man came. I don’t know exactly who he was, but I figured he was one of my mother’s…gentlemen. But then the yelling started. He was yelling about money, that my mother owed him a lot and that her body just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Then he asked where I was, said that maybe I would be able to help her pay the debt.”
Shannon’s eyes began to water. “No…he didn’t.”
Mimi shook her head. “Thankfully not. See, my mother, for all her weird mood swings, was not about to let anyone lay a finger on me. So, this man burst into my room and just as he stepped in the door, my mother put a knife right through his back. The man screamed, turned around and began choking her. I jumped up out of bed and began kicking him as hard as I could but nothing would help, he wouldn’t let her go. He just kicked me away. He was going to kill her.”
Mimi paused for a moment to wipe a tear away from her face. Shannon leaned forward and kissed the spot where the tear had been.
“I did what I had to do. See, the little steak knife was still in his back. I don’t think my mother had hurt him very much with it. So, I pulled it out and just started…using it on him. I don’t know how many times I stabbed him. I just wanted him to stop hurting my mother.” Mimi’s voice began to shake, along with her body, and the tears began to flow freely.
“She was all I really had.” Mimi buried her face into Shannon’s breasts for a moment and sobbed. Shannon stroked her hair in silence until Mimi calmed down.
She sniffled, her voice was low and hoarse. “The next thing I remember is my mother taking the knife out of my hands. I remember her packing my things. I remember her telling me I had to go; I had to hide somewhere. I didn’t want to leave, though. I knew what would happen to her if I did.”
“Did she…end up a Runner?”
Mimi nodded, “Is there any other punishment in this city?”
Shannon didn’t shake her head. She didn’t need to. She didn’t know there was another kind of punishment, but Mimi didn’t feel like it was the right time to talk about it.
“She made me leave though, threw me out the door. Screamed at me, hit me, kicked me, everything she could to get me out the door. She didn’t want anything to happen to me. I didn’t understand then, and for years after I thought she just wanted to be rid of me, but, well, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. I know now that everything she did was to protect me.”
Shannon asked, “Then what happened? I mean, how did you end up down here?”
“That’s a long story. But there’s some other stuff first, like why I need Likatol.”
Mimi hesitated. “See, I don’t know what it was about that night. I don’t know if it was the act of taking someone’s life. I don’t know if it was my mother kicking me out. I don’t know if maybe it had something to do with the fact that I had no idea how to survive on the streets, but something in me woke up.”
Shannon cocked her head a little. “What do you mean?”
Mimi looked at her directly in the eyes. “This is going to be hard to believe. But after that night I started to hear voices. At first, I thought I was just going crazy. I thought that maybe I was losing my mind. I noticed that some of the other homeless people talked to themselves and I thought maybe that was where I was headed. But then I noticed something else, that sometimes when I was talking to people, I seemed to hear their voice both when they were speaking and when they weren’t. It created a few awkward situations.”
Mimi paused for a moment and watched for Shannon’s reaction. She deliberately stayed out of Shannon’s head. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know what she was thinking. Then she saw recognition on Shannon’s face.
“Wait…are you telling me…you read minds?”
Mimi looked away from her and nodded. But Shannon grabbed her chin so that she would look directly at her again. Mimi expected her to yell, to laugh, to scoff, or something that all her other lovers had done, but instead she said, “Well shit, that completely makes sense.”
Mimi blinked. “It does?”
“Um yeah. You know a lot of shit you shouldn’t know. Like when those sanitation workers were coming. You know all this information, that–having dropped out of school–you shouldn’t know. I mean I can think of a hundred times when I thought to myself, my god, does she read minds or something? And it turned out to be true.”
“So you’re not weirded out or mad or anything?”
“No, why would I be? It’s just another reason to love you for the amazing person you are.”
Mimi’s eyes began to burn, and before she could stop herself, she realized she was bawling. Shannon pulled her close. Mimi could feel her fingertips caressing her cheek.
“Why are you crying, Mimi?”
Mimi couldn’t answer, she just kept sobbing and pulled herself even closer to Shannon. She wanted nothing more at that moment than to merge with her, to be so intimately close to her that she couldn’t ever pull apart again. Here was someone, at last, who might finally be able to understand. And then she felt her eyes closing. For the first time in years, she felt at home.
* * *
Her face felt stuck. She lifted her head and felt the skin between Shannon’s bare breasts pull off her face. She blinked and looked around, wondering how long she had been asleep, but there was no way to know. Shannon herself was breathing deeply, her mouth hanging open with her head tilted back.
Mimi ran her fingers up the side of her face. There was so much more to tell her, and for the first time in a very long while, she felt she had a partner, someone to whom she could actually tell things. Of course, it did remain to be seen how Shannon interacted with her now that she knew that whenever she wanted, she could skim her mind. But Mimi wouldn’t do that now. Now that she knew, she would respect her privacy. It was a funny thing. It seemed as if the moment someone knew about her abilities, she didn’t want to skim them anymore; that somehow, she felt like she was violating some semblance of privacy, yet she had no problem with doing this to a stranger or an acquaintance.
She lifted her body and put her clothes on. They were becoming tattered from wear. She would have to scrape together some more credits for new ones.
She rummaged through a small case to the left of her bed and found her bottle of Likatol. She didn’t need much, just a tablet every few days or so. A bottle usually lasted her about six months.
“So, you didn’t quite tell me why you need that stuff.”
Shannon was sitting up and stretching. She looked around the room, found her clothes around the various locations and put them on.
“Well, it has to do with my…talent, for lack of a better word. See, at first, it wasn’t such a big deal. I could easily skim people whenever I wanted.”
“Oh, that’s what I call it when I read people. I call it skimming because so far as I know, I can only read what they are actively thinking about. I have never gone any deeper than that, and in truth, with most people, I am a little afraid to do so. People keep a lot of secrets, you know.”
Shannon nodded and moved over to Mimi and put her arms around her. They spoke face to face now.
“That’s kind of a relief. I can’t say I like the idea of you fishing around through my memories and stuff.”
“Yeah, and also…I won’t read you anymore.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Well now that you know what I can do, I don’t feel comfortable doing it.”
Shannon moved her lips back and forth and looked around the room. “I don’t think it’s a big deal if you want to read me.”
“No, I’m not going to. It’s fine.”
“Alright. So, the drugs?”
“Yeah, so by the time I turned 16 it started to get more intense. There were these moments when I couldn’t control it, and the entire city within a few kilometers would rush into my head. Probably a few hundred thousand people, all speaking at once. It was overwhelming. It made me sick. Sometimes it would just give me a migraine and sometimes it would make me physically ill.”
“So the Likatol helps?”
“Yes. I mean, I tried a whole bunch of other stuff first. Lots of people thought I was an addict. But I don’t think I was ever addicted to anything. I only ever took something when the headaches were really bad. The problem was, I couldn’t stay clear, couldn’t function with any of the other stuff.”
“Isn’t Likatol to stop people from getting addicted to drugs? Like I heard that Uppers would take it before going on a long drug binge or something.”
“Yeah, that’s what I heard too. And there was one day that my dealer only had Likatol, so I thought what the hell, and gave it a try. I don’t know what it is in there, but for some reason, it gives me control over my talent. I don’t have to worry about headaches or sickness and obviously, because it doesn’t get you high, there are no debilitating effects.”
“How often do you have to take it?”
“Thankfully only once every few days, sometimes up to a week. It depends on how stressed out the city is, I think.”
“What does that mean?”
“If something stressful is going on, like there are security raids, or there is another migrating city nearby, people get nervous and anxious, and that stress impacts me more. When the city of Lundon did that raid a few years back, and the entire Runnercore went into combat, I had to take two Likatol a day just to keep from getting sick.”
“Wow.” Shannon kissed her forehead and turned around to gather up her things.
“Going somewhere?” asked Mimi.
“I’m hungry. I thought about getting my daily ration. And see if there is any more news about Tanya. But one thing first, who else knows?”
“No one? Not even Bobby or Angela?”
Mimi was mostly a loner, but Bobby and Angela were a couple that she occasionally spent time with. “No, not even them. You have to understand, I can’t trust a lot of people with this. If it got out and someone actually believed it…”
“I get it…don’t tell anyone, right?”
Mimi nodded. “Please.”
“Don’t worry, love, your secrets are safe with me.”
Mimi watched her leave and head back to the streets. She had the overwhelming feeling that even though Shannon fully intended to keep her secret safe, she wouldn’t. She had a sinking feeling that like in times past, everything was about to go wrong. And it seemed like that intuition was never wrong. Perhaps that was a skill set that she had too, that she simply hadn’t understood before.
She shivered, closed her eyes, and took a few deep breaths. The cat was out of the bag now and there was nothing to be done. But later, she would think to herself, that there was something she could have done, that when everything went bad, she should have always followed Shannon back up to the surface. She shouldn’t have let her leave her side. It might have made all the difference.