OrphansI slow to a walk and as I move along BeiShan toward my office. I pause to kick a bottle and as I watch it spin, it starts moving so fast I become dizzy just staring at and have to stop for a moment to get my bearings. I place my hands on my knees and focus on my breathing, thinking about the stars and the waves and just how long it’s been since I picked up an electric guitar and played it until my fingers bled and my ears buzzed from the endless distortion.

I also think about Al B as I get moving again, about choices, choosing family, what that means in terms of what you give up and how you can ever truly compare what gets lost to doing the right thing regardless?

I am snapped out of my reverie by someone shouting at me.

“You work here man?”

I look up, realize I have reached the front door of the office, and find myself standing face to face with a guy in a tattered suit.

“I said do you work here?” the guy says again, though I now realize he’s not just a guy, but one of many guys all trudging down the sidewalk and heading toward me; every one of them is dressed in what remains of their once professional suits. These are guys who used to have jobs, pride and somewhere to go before the Corporation took over, the E.C.s began to replace humans and the used Terraxes were able to provide help until no longer viable.

“I do work here,” I say.

“Are they hiring,” he asks, “they must need some kind of help, right?”

The guy then reaches into his breast pocket and I get ready for the inevitable gun or knife. Instead he pulls out a resume, which is folded, and creased, stiff with coffee and sweat. As he goes to unfold it, a black helicopter swoops in from above.

“We will need you to disperse please, immediately,” says the voice booming from the black helicopter, now so close I can feel the heat emanating from its belly.

“Fuck you,” the guy screams looking up at the helicopter that remains as impassive as ever, fuck you.”

Soon all the guys are screaming “fuck you” and jumping into the air as they futilely try to grab the helicopter and bring it down to the ground.

“You have ten seconds to disperse, nine, eight…,” the voice from helicopter intones, but the workers are now enraged, a maelstrom of anger, tears and frustration.

“Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you,” they start to chant.

“…five, four…,” the voice continues, pointlessly.

But no one is going anywhere. The helicopter rotates so one side is now facing us. A window opens and a mechanical arm holding a gun extends outward from the window and fires. The sound is so loud it echoes across the buildings and down the street like a tidal wave.

The guys in their tattered suits are now running in every possible direction. All but one anyway, because the guy who first confronted me is now lying on his back at my feet, a thin stream of blood slowly trickling from his temple, across the sidewalk and into the street.

I take a quick look and I’m struck by how still he looks, and peaceful. I hope he’s in a better place, but I don’t believe it.

I turn away and walk toward the front door of the office as an E.C. walks up with a crew of Terraxes to clean the sidewalk and remove the body.


Ben.Author.EmptyBottleBEN TANZER is the author of the books My Father’s House, You Can Make Him Like You, So Different Now, Orphans and Lost in Space, among others. He also oversees day to day operations of This Zine Will Change Your Life, directs Publicity and Content Strategy for Curbside Splendor, and can be found online at This Blog Will Change Your Lifethe center of his growing lifestyle empire.

Excerpted from Orphans, by Ben Tanzer, copyright © 2013 by Ben Tanzer. With permission of the publisher, Switchgrass Books.

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