Writing Prompt: Day 222

222.jpgDay 222 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: What does your character splurge on?

Shannon: Books

Erin: There were a few categories of my life where money was not an object: Skin Care, Movies, and Sweets!

Time to treat your character.

One thought on “Writing Prompt: Day 222

  1. “I need twenty points of Awake and three of Health-General right this minute,” shouted a twenty-something with deep purple bags under her eyes and a crop top that showed off her ribcage jutting from her chest. To almost every person in this shop, this woman was the image of perfection, which was likely bought by her parent’s money, but I saw her for what she really was; a foolish girl who would rather spend points on looking young and beautiful than being healthy. As the attendant rushed past the counter, muttering obscenities under his breath, the girl huffed irately and stomped her feet like the child she was. There was an insolent nature to some of our population, those who never would have had to choose between shelter and food, that frustrated the hell out of me. Just watching the young man sweating as he doled out the correct number of Awake and Health pills was enough to make you feel sorry for anyone who had to deal with her lot.
    Finally making it back to the counter to take her points, he glanced gingerly at the line and smiled a thin-lipped smile at the girl and spoke monotonously, “Have a good day.” His eyes slid to the next person in line, a woman who’d got to be pushing toward ninety, as the girl counted her pills.
    “Pfft, you skimped on the Awake. That J guy always gives me two extra because I’m such a good customer,” she shrieked, her voice carrying over the line of waiting customers and out into the street. Looking sheepishly to the next few patrons as though they were going to help him, the cashier murmured something unintelligible under his breath to the girl and her face reddened. With one last, fiery look at the young man, she stormed away, shoving the pills into her bulbous purse as she streaked into the store across the street.
    This kind of thing happened every day, but no one could blame the poor guy for being shook up, so the woman next in line passed him a Calm for his nerves; she could afford to do that where the rest of us were just lucky if we could make it to the end of the month with enough points to spare on Health of any kind. I was pretty diligent with my points to make sure I had at least a few to combat my negative diagnoses from many years ago, and so far I hadn’t dropped dead, so there was that.
    The old woman pulled out a list from her purse, dug around leisurely for her glasses and cleared her throat to make her request in a crackling voice, “Alright sonny, I need twelve of Health-General, seventeen of Health-Heart, five of Health-Joints, twenty-two of Sleep and seven of Memory. And that’s for two of us, sonny, so we don’t need the bulk discounts on them, please.” If I made it to her age, I hoped I was generous enough to not use a bulk discount on Health pills; the government gave each citizen their age in points every day, with bonuses when you reached a certain age since most people didn’t make it past forty, so reaching an old age earned you more points to play with.
    With a smile, the kid nodded politely and headed around one side of the circular dispenser to begin filling her containers with the correct numbers of each pharmaceutical pill. These places always felt like despair was holding the very air we breathed hostage; this was the place to get pills to be saved if you were on your last leg, but sometimes there just wasn’t enough points to pay for it. Fortunately for me, I’d only gone without much-needed Health for a month or two in my youth, but I was one of the lucky ones to have survived my droughts.
    “Here you are, ma’am,” piped up the attendant who had managed to fit all the containers on his counter and was now scanning each into a computer for verification. As it beeped, he looked to her and sighed, “That’ll be 63 points please.” She touched her bracelet to the computer scanner and it dinged happily as he handed her the first of her bags. When she was almost ready to go, he leaned forward and whispered so low I was the only other person in earshot, “I gave you a couple extra Health-General. Have a wonderful day, ma’am.” She passed me with a tart giggle and headed off down the street toward the public transit terminals. “Next, please,” called the cashier, who was looking a lot less stressed after the old woman’s pick-me-up, as he grabbed an empty canister.
    Taking a deep breath, I pulled a list from my bag and smiled curtly at the man, “I have a list with my discounts. Sorry,” I added, seeing his face fall at the necessity of a list to keep track of my pills. I held it up and the scanner copied the list with another happy ding, which I only now considered must get old very quickly. After a quick look at the pills, the attendant smiled at me; they assumed because I had a list that it was long, but it was simply very small doses of a few different pills to keep me up, walking and talking.
    As he went about gathering the merchandise, I looked around at the dull grey sky casting gloom down on the streets. There weren’t the usual throngs of people out and about, but the light drizzle was obviously forcing the vast majority indoors. Signs across the street blazed the neon yellow and bubble-gum pink reason; it was a rumor that the government was seeding the rain with corrosive chemicals. Regrettably, no one seemed to be capable of reprogramming the signs, including the government employees who were meant to fix that kind of thing, so they remained until someone got fed up and broke the whole device off the lamppost. Of course, most people who had reason to hate the sign wouldn’t be caught dead breaking the law, so they hung around for longer than any of us would have liked.
    Behind me, the sprawling line was full of pale people with diseases you could see on their face mostly, but there were a few who looked right as rain; those were the ones you had to watch, though. I always assumed if someone risked coming out to get Health pills but looked as though they’d just stepped off a runway, they’d been spending their hard-earned points on their looks and might drop any minute. In my decent number of years, I’d seen my fair share of beautiful people pass away because they couldn’t bear to spend a point on their Health.
    “Ma’am?” asked the cashier, holding up a small bag of pills in a rainbow of colours so I could see it clearly through the glass. His hand was trembling and under his shirt cuff I could see a warped greyish line winding its way up his arm; he was clearly in need of some more points than he was earning here. “It’ll be forty-three points, please,” he squeaked, motioning toward the payment device.
    Without stopping to consider what I was saying, I leaned forward and whispered, “Actually, would you mind giving me fifty points in change, please.” When I saw his concern, I smiled shyly and chuckled, “I’m heading over to the Used Store and they give a discount if you pay in coin.” Most places balked if you wanted to pay in physical coins, but the Used Store, which sold used items of all kinds, requested change as their preferred method of payment for whatever reason.
    Nodding politely with a nervous expression, the attendant punched something into the computer, used his own ID bracelet to okay the action and gave me my new total in a clipped tone, “That’ll be 93 points.” As I reached out and scanned my bracelet as payment, he eyed my purse and person warily, waiting for the computer to give out its customary ding. While it did ding when it was finished, it also made an odd whirring sound, buzzed loudly and spat out a medium-sized bag onto my side of the counter that was full of shiny metal coins. Clearly intrigued by the dispensing of change, the cashier was blinking rapidly as he distractedly passed me the bag of pills.
    With the pills safely in my purse, I reached through the dispensary slot to grip his quivering hand in my own relatively-steady one. “Now, I want you to get that arm looked after, you hear?” I ordered as I slid the bag of coins to him and retracted my hand, covering his counter from the overly-interested gaze of the other customers. Winking at him, I hurried on my way with every eye in the store on me; let them stare if they want, but that kid would hopefully live because of a pittance of points to anyone else in that place.
    I limped slowly down the plaza, rain dripping down my back, and headed across the way to the Learning Place. Below my feet, the slippery road tiles were changing colours with the liquid’s touch as an ancient art installation that required little to no maintenance. If only the people who thought of the technology for images to appear with a little water could see the enormous cityscapes now covered in neon graffiti that was only visible on the darkest of dreary nights. A school of fish shimmered between a few buildings as a whale surfed the tide of a long-dead ocean behind them, patiently waiting to swallow anyone foolish enough to stand it its mouth whole. Further down the street, a group of brilliantly-hued dolphins raced each other in front of the public transit terminals with other exotic sea life waving in the breeze.
    As I arrived at the Learning Place doors, they opened automatically and I slipped inside to find it nearly empty. Along both walls were banks of machines that could fill your brain with whatever information you could possibly wish to know; from wars to science and everything in between was recorded, and for sale, somewhere. Two people were utilizing the machines, sitting on either end of the store with their eyes glued to the programs as though they were being brainwashed. While that was one conspiracy theory I subscribed to, this was a place of learning and education, not turning ones’ fellow human’s brains to mush.
    “Hello there, ma’am,” called the overly-perky cashier who was always here wearing skin-tight clothing and multiple barrettes in her hair. Continuing to limp across the long floor, I glanced around to see what new information was available to know today. “We can now offer in-depth lessons on prehistoric and post-historic extinct-level animals. Just in today!” she beamed, pointing to the flashy picture of a wholly mammoth, lion and elephant.
    Waving off her exuberance, I leaned against her high counter and riffled through my purse for my computer, which was forever falling to the bottom of my bag. “Ah,” I finally called triumphantly, pulling out the slender body of my computer screen and placing it gently on the counter for the attendant to see. I grinned at the girl as though she were about to give me new life as I made my request, “I’d like to order a few different books please, and don’t laugh at me when I say so.” That last bit had become a necessary part of splurging on books; no one had ever heard of, or requested, any of the books I wanted to read so there was a fair amount of disinterested snuffing involved.
    With a nod to keep from bursting out in unbecoming laugher, the cashier tapped my computer with her finger and gave me a pointed glance. Chuckling to myself, I placed a palm on it to unlock the computer and scanned through to my list of books, skimming through it one last time.
    She took the list over to her own computer and input each of them in turn, downloading the information to transfer back when she was finished. With a smug smile, she rolled her eyes and announced in a loud voice, “Eh, we don’t have the second, third or eighth book you wanted, and it’s gonna take a minimum of twenty minutes to download them all. How about you pay for them, take a seat and I’ll let you know when it’s done, eh?” That same insolent sneer fell from her lips as she stepped back to the front machine and began inputting my purchases. Gasping lightly, she spoke in a suddenly-quiet voice, barely more than a whisper, “That’ll be eighty-six points, please.”
    Sniffing, I reached under the machine and it dinged happily with my payment. I turned on my heel and wandered to the waiting area, sat down in a cushy half-moon chair, and put my feet up on the coffee table. Across the room, the attendant made no snide comment about my soaking shoes being on the clean wooden table, nor did she address my choice of volumes. I suppose it really was true; having more points made you more popular and less likely to be made fun of in public or private settings.


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