Goffi has always loved the lottery, but this “Moon Death Sweepstakes” takes things to another level.
“Better pin your hopes elsewhere, Babe,” Hux says as Goffi’s fingers dance across his implanted arm-screen.
Goffi shifts his ass atop the sidewalk, leans back against the grimy wall, and keeps on tapping. After sixty years together, Hux is used to being intermittently ignored.
“Not much to hope for in this shithole,” Goffi says, and Hux feels the slight rush of pleasure that always accompanies the receipt of Goffi’s attention. “Better to send my thoughts spaceward.”
Hux stares across the weed heaved pavement to the wreck of a building whose shadow they are sitting in while they wait out the early evening heat. A guy in a semi-clean jacket shuffles past with an empty cart, probably in search of Charity Credits, Hux thinks. Hoping, like the rest of us, to keep back The Sleep Squads for another day.
Hux’s screen pings. He flips his palm skyward and observes the undersurface of his arm. A digital image of a rose appears on his screen.
“All my love, Babe,” Goffi says, and his arthritic finger slides across Hux’s thigh. Hux smiles, taps his screen, and returns an image of kissy-lips to Goffi’s arm screen.
“At least some things are still free,” Goffi says as he drags the lips sideways and deposits them into his “Affection” Bar. Hux tries not to notice the “Material Worth” bar beside it. It is easy to miss, as its value is close to zero.
Hux’s tenure had come through a few years before the country shifted to the Bar Worth System, so he probably has enough M.W. credits for another year. Goffi had been the dreamer between then, had been happy to drift as an Associate and let Hux be the career guy. Back then, they had never envisioned The Sleep Squads or the possible morbid outcomes of their binary accounting.
Goffi catches Hux looking and swipes left. A holographic image of the moon appears atop Goffi’s sun-ruined skin.
“Maybe I’ll go over to Union and see if I can get you some C.C.s,” Hux says.
When Goffi broke his hip and his Potential Rating became “Negligible,” it became illegal for Hux to transfer Goffi his own credits.
“Nah,” Goffi says and presses Hux’s shrunken quadriceps beneath his palm. “You know that well’s run dry. It’s the moon or The Squads for me. Just sit with me, Hux. I couldn’t stand it if I were alone when they came.”
Despite himself, Hux looks to Goffi’s arm and feels a glimmer of hope as he considers the moon’s image.
“What are the chances?” Hux asks.
“I’ve been entering daily for eight years so I figure I’ve got it up to about one in eight million -assuming the choice is random.”
“Probably fixed like everything else,” Hux says.
“Why bother? One in eight million?
“Hope is about getting through the present, Babe. The future is what it is. My days are better when I can close my eyes and imagine myself there, sitting in my own cool patch of moon-dust, being allowed to live out my natural span.”
“What are you supposed to do there, you know, while you wait?”
“Anything you want to. Think your thoughts. Sleep. Read. And everything is provided.”
“And when you die?”
“They release you from the gravity hold and let you go.”
Goffi grimaces as he shifts his body to face Hux. Goffi’s skin hangs from his skull like a windless sail, and his lips have sunken into the crevice of his not-so-recently vacated teeth. It is Goffi’s eyes, still clear and shining forth from beneath his heavy lids like the twilight of better days, that Hux will miss the most when The Squads take him.
“Got a good feeling, Babe,” Goffi says. “I know what they are looking for. You’ve seen the promotionals? Every person there is a Spark Person. A bit of a weirdo. Nutty professors on the moon. That’s the look they’re going for, and I’ve got it.”
“And the sequins?” Hux reaches forward to caress the smooth edges of the plastic jewels that Goffi has attached to his cheeks.
“Gotta stand out somehow,” Goffi says and smiles his old smile. “They have got to be watching. I just know I’m on the shortlist.”
“But what do they get out of it? I’ve never understood that.”
“Keeps us calm, maybe. Gives us something to think about while we wait.”
“Yeah. But you should sign up. I mean, what’s the alternative?”
“Wouldn’t be caught dead,” Hux says, and Goffi snorts.
The man with the cart re-appears, considers the two of them, and pushes the cart their way. When he reaches the curb, the man pulls a scanner-gun from his jacket and points it at Goffi’s arm.
The moment is underwhelming. Hux and Goffi have lived long enough on this dying earth to know that no good can come of resisting. Hux helps Goffi struggle to his feet, and Goffi brushes his dry lips against Hux’s ear.
“We’ll bathe together in the moon-dust yet, Babe,” Goffi whispers.
When Goffi has gone, Hux looks to the empty space on the sidewalk. A single plastic sequin shines forth from the concrete. Hux crouches to retrieve it and rolls it between his finger and thumb. His screen pings, and another rotating rose appears atop his arm.
“You can’t win if you don’t enter,” says the message beneath the rose.
Next comes a grainy photograph of the Squad worker’s shirt. Hux zooms in on the worker’s tricolor pocket-patch as the next message appears:
With the eye of faith? Hux thinks, considering the image’s red slash and white script. Maybe.
Hux sends a GIF of crossing fingers, but his message is quickly returned. The recipient has become “unknown.”
Hux runs a search for “Moon Death Sweepstakes” as he eases himself back down to the sidewalk.
He presses the sequin to his cheek, clicks the link, and enters.