The Beast, Pt. 13 (Chapter 7a)


The lobby of the Tropicali is like everything else in the Meadows: crowded, chaotic, loud. As ever, there’s an odd mix here. Families on vacation with small children, the mothers and fathers talking to topless dancers bedecked in synthetic feathers, teens quaffing alcohol like men and women dying of thirst in the desert, people in business casual shooting up alongside prostitutes and vagrants, and so on and so on ad nauseam. Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law. No one here will ever tell you, “Excuse me, you can’t do that here,” unless they saw you punching someone in the face or copulating like animals in public. But then again, if someone yelled at you and said, “No, it’s okay, I paid them for it,” they’d probably just go, “Oh, I’m sorry. My mistake. Carry on.”

To a certain kind of person, this place is heaven. I am not that kind of person, but I’d be damned if I didn’t admit that it was a hell of a party in small manageable doses.

A group of three young men in their late teens or perhaps their early twenties walk in front of us. They are dressed in comfortable clothes, the kind of styles and fabrics that suggests, “Hey, we’re too fun and too cool to give a fuck,” while also saying, “Hey, do you like my shirt and shorts? They cost, like, two-hundred credits. Each.” The one in front is muscular and fair-skinned, his cheek bones and his tawny hair and his scrawny legs suggesting a delicateness that belies his hypertrophic arm and chest muscles. I wonder how many fights this guy’s ever been in in his life. I wonder how many times he’s torn off his shirt and said, “What, you want to fight?”

I bet I know which number is higher.

Word Count: 11,427 (2,410 words a day to go! Yikes. I’d better do some serious writing this weekend.)


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