Above him, windows punched in columns of cement reflected gloomy skies and cables pouring voltage into offices of people trapped like mice. Maury wondered at the camber of the buildings as he walked, how they didn’t topple in the slightest quake. His interview began at 9, but he was early, so he searched their daunting shadows, the hissing of the city buses, the horns and squealing brakes of denizens with better jobs or greater debt for stories he could pitch.
Traffic wasn’t bad for Monday, but still the air was thick with carbon. A different sort of fog than Maury’d grown up with on the coast, where drawing deeply cleaned his lungs with ocean mist–the vellum of an endless stretch of waves that stirred up oxygen held in seabeds since antiquity, and he the first to take it in as breath. The city, air was stale and tepid.
As Maury walked, it dawned on him the sunrise here was late, the height of buildings trapping in the night to make a shorter day. So it always seemed like evening, and he always felt fatigued. At 8:30, Maury entered the building where a man with slick, grey hair was waiting for him in a high-up office veiled in smoke. He’d interviewed a dozen times, always was articulate but never got a call, so Maury freelanced from his family home near the ocean. It’s just that recently the ink was thin, his stories fallen flat.
In the elevator, a suited man smiled and said, “You look out of breath. Running a bit late?”
“In fact, I’m still a bit early,” Maury said, looking at avent above him. “It’s just the air in these buildings is so thick.”
“No one’s ever early here,” the man chuckled, his loosened collar showing a triangle of ruddy skin. “Place like this is always the end.”
From the editor’s office on 45th floor, Maury saw the earth frowning in the distance. Somewhere past it, ocean swept the air.
“Hell of a fall,” said the editor between thick curls of cream-like smoke before the interview began. “That’s what we need. Stories about jumpers. Tragic, messy endings on the concrete. If you can get those, Maury, you’re hired”
When the man reddened and collapsed, his warped fist crumpling his lapel, Maury got his pad and pen to write.