Into the Neon Light by Austin LeLievre

A desolate stream of water and neon ripples away when the step of a white shoe exits the Aeromag. The shoe then pulls a young man in azure pants dressed with a silver belt paired with a scarlet shirt that has just an embroidered smiley face up on the chest. The man takes a deep breath of air and mutters to himself “Ah the smell of dreams and newmade reality,” he pauses as he steps forward out of the stream. He looks up to the highest nearby building, the neon painted from corner to corner almost blinds him with shades of pearled pinks and wild blues. Creeping holographic words slip around the building reading:

HIGHRISE CITY: GIVE IT YOUR ALL OR YOU SHALL FALL

“Well, that’s inviting.” azure pants mumbles. As the words finish wrapping around the edge of the building the man’s sight scales down and he stares into the vibrant maze he is now betwixt. He slings a backpack, which has the words IF FOUND RETURN TO TREYE digitized on both straps and across the front pocket, atop his shoulders. Treye treks onward, his bounds filled with hope and ambition.

A smile slides across Treye’s face as he threads himself between crowds apologizing to every bump he is involved with. “Go home, purist!” someone says after Treye gave out one of his famous “I’m sorrys.” Treye brushes himself off and glances back at his holowatch which displays that he is only a block away from his destination. He gathers his bearings and without hesitation begins to sprint across the sea of people.

Treye slid to a stop in front of what seemed to be the only dimly lit property in the whole damn city.  His eyes glance up to a flickering emerald sign THE NOBLE. Granted, both the H and O were out in the sign, so it just read TE NBLE. But indeed, it was the place. The place Treye had been researching to host his event, where he would make his name. Treye took a deep breath and opened the door upon exhaling. The neon outside was drowned out with a warm room filled with people and android alike. A midnight purple light infused each crevice and corner with an essence of serenity, smoke pranced about the room entering his nostrils. He gazed around to find people sitting at the bar drinking with others, a line of booths split the space in half where couples stumbled atop of another and lonely hearts sat and stared at the performer on stage.

Walking past a man twirling a glass of what appeared to be whisky on the table dead staring at the current performer, Treye and him lock vision of each other when Treye snapped towards the center of the room.

Centered was a woman, tall and appeared to have been sculpted to shape by the most talented of artists. Her voice cast a spell of romance and mystery on the room. Treye stepped closer to the stage as if in a trance. He stared into her shimmering blue eyes, cut deep with a story hidden behind the beauty. Mystical short silver hair seemed to float back and forth gleaming like strands of a spider’s silk carefully woven. She notices Treye and locks eyes. Treye felt a need to look in a different direction but couldn’t let himself turn. Her beauty had frozen him. Treye closed his eyes and still only saw her, this time visualizing gentle words and music swing around the room. He opened his eyes back up and thought “Holy shit who is this and where has she been my whole life?” He drifts his eyes down her arm that slowly moves around with each fluttering lyric she sings. Treye glances down at his holowatch again and sees he needs to get ready asap. “Shit, just when I was getting into it.” Treye mutters to himself and goes towards a door that wraps to the back corner of the room. As he opens the door he looks back to see the woman still staring at him, he glances back as he enters the small room.

Upon entering, a singular fan whirrs in the corner blowing a small amount of hot air in through the small room. Next to the fan sat a larger man, he had a chain around his neck that simply stated TJ in a shimmering blue amulet. “What you need, my man?” TJ bellowed.

Treye responded nervously “I-I’m here to perform. I called Mr. Joe on the phone yesterday, he said he saved me a midnight appearance.” TJ stood and the objects around him seemed to move out of the way in fear of being hit. He had a very ominous yet powerful presence.

“Ahh, you must be Treytor. Look, go through here and find a spot to put your stuff. Start getting ready, and I’ll send Joe your way.” TJ gestured to the suede curtain next to him.

“Thanks, and uhh, call me Treye, Treytor is just my stage name. You know, privacy and all that.” Treye slid the curtain over and began to enter the next room. “Whatever, man.” TJ said as he sat back down, closing the curtain behind Treye.

An aroma of shitty perfume and booze carried through the room. Sat were four performers who looked at Treye, yet no one said a word. After a second of uncomfortable silence they all returned to doing their makeup and dressing themselves to their part. Treye found an empty area and hung his backpack on the chair before placing himself on it. As he began to unzip his backpack he heard the muffled sound of applause come to an end as a purple light split into the room. Treye turned towards it and there she was. The woman singing from earlier sauntered in playing with her hair. She lifted her head and met eyes with Treye.

Treye stopped what he was doing and turned towards her. Her presence became heavier and heavier the closer she got to him. “Why hello sugar,” the woman stated while sitting herself down next to Treye. “I don’t believe we have met, the names Nessa, mind if I sit?” Treye, still hypnotized by her beauty, doesn’t respond. “Helloooo?” Nessa says gently to get his attention.

“Oh, uh sorry, just blanked out for a second. I’m Treye.” Treye responded slightly blushing. “Oh, and I am here to perform for the first time in the city, I’m from a smaller town about a thousand miles from here.”

Nessa chuckles to herself before responding. “An outsider huh, well I can tell you first hand this place can ruin a person like you.”

Treye continues to unzip his bag taking out just a couple articles of clothing. “Well, there isn’t much for me back home anyways,” Treye pauses as he looks back over to see Nessa undressing. He quickly looks at himself in the mirror and pretends to fix his hair. “I just have to say you have such a stunning voice, you did a great job capturing the audience.”

“From the looks of it, I did a good job capturing your attention too.” Nessa turned towards Treye “But thank you for the compliment, it’s hard for me to accept your kindness seeing how it really isn’t my voice.”

Confusion began to poison Treye’s mind. “Well what do you mean by that?” Treye slowly turned to look at her. What he saw took him by shock. Instead of a beautiful nude woman standing in front of him, there was just synthetic around the shape of a woman. The reason she seemed to be crafted in beauty, is because she was. She was an android.

“Looks like you just put two pieces of the puzzle together there Treye.” Nessa gestures to herself and a saddened look slithered across her face. “You probably just lost a lot of respect towards me now haven’t ya? Doesn’t surprise me. It happens often.” She turned away from Treye and began to walk to the next open seat.

“Not at all! Please sit.” Treye responded with a hurry. He had never met an android in person, only heard it through the telecast. “I don’t mind at all.” He smiled towards her and motioned for her to sit. Nessa nodded in return and began to redress herself.

She wore a Vermilion sundress that had shimmering stones growing halfway up that coupled with silver lined heels that spiraled up her ankle. She looked up at Treye and he saw a single tear drip off her chin. The droplet landed with such emotion it could almost be heard. “What’s wrong? Is there something I said?”

“No” Nessa rubbed her eyes and smiled up at Treye. “Actually, for once everything you said was right.” She glanced around the room, then back at Treye with a cocked head. “You’re performing tonight right?”

“Yeah Joe gave me the midnight spot. I think I should be going in about an hour or so.” Treye sees a look of doubt in Nessa’s expression. “Is there something wrong with that?”

Nessa sighs and looks him in the eyes, “The midnight showing is given to the artists they don’t believe in. That’s where they consider the worst performers to perform.” A carefully placed grin is now on her face as she waits for an answer from Treye.

Treye, who was once full of optimism, now shared a blank manner was all that was shown. “Oh…I guess I came here for nothing then.” He places the articles of clothing back into his backpack and zips it up. He straps the bag to him and opens his mouth to say goodbye.

“Wait,” Nessa grabs Treye’s shoulder and turns him towards her “I have a better place to perform! The Noble is hard to get a good review from. Believe me sugar, here is an easy place to get a spot but not a good place to get recognized. Come with me, I’d feel better with some company anyhow.”  Before Treye could even answer Nessa had grabbed his hand and dragged him out the backdoor at a high strut.

She brought him into a dark back alley and pulled him with a sense of urgency. The smell of garbage and vomit wafted past their faces. Knocked over trash cans litter the alley but this didn’t matter to Treye. Treye’s heart began to feel full for once and his enthusiasm continued to grow. So, he followed. They had traveled for about a block or so when they reached a staircase. It was oddly out of place. It was clean and shiny, as if it hadn’t been used before even though it was surrounded in filth. Treye and Nessa ran up the stairs giggling at each other. “Come on, we want to make sure you get a spot.” Nessa giggled. At the top of the stairs was a secret alley of pure cleanliness. As they walked through the crowd of androids they appeared to know Nessa and waved smiling at her. It was strange though whenever Treye would wave it seemed that he was invisible, no one seemed to notice his presence.

A strange feeling comes over Treye and he slows down. “Nessa, where are we going?” Still holding her hand, she just looks back at him and smiles. His spirits lifted some more, he continued.

They slow down when they round a corner to see a digisign reading SPARKS AND SHAMBLES. Excitedly, they approach the entrance. That’s when Treye feels a powerful blow to his side. He sees neon streaks cross his vision as he feels himself hit the floor. His side aching in pain and his conscience slipping from him he manages to hear Nessa’s voice cry out “Treye no!” His vision clears slightly as he sees Nessa receive an elbow to her temple. “Nessa..” Treye weakly releases before receiving a blow to the head leading him to go unconscious.

Treye eventually comes through after about four hours of the incident. He remembers waking up with a direct light in his face and vision blurry. A faint scent of burnt hair resides airborne as he sits up with urgency. “Nessa!” he cries out while sitting up too fast, placing a hand on his forehead to subdue the pain. He can’t feel his hand. “Holy shit why can’t I feel my hand!”

“Calm down, calm down.” A figure appears from the brightly lit shadows. “You’re fine, just be glad that woman dropped you by.”

“Wait what, who are you? Where the hell am I? What do you mean ‘dropped by’?” Treye is red in the face partnered with the shallow blue pain across his face.

“Son, I am gonna be blunt with you since you want to ask so many damn questions. An android woman dropped you off here and was erratic about you getting help. She sent some credits my way to heal your wounds. To answer your first question, you can call me Doc, second, you’re in my office. Also, you can’t feel your hand because it isn’t there anymore. Your dumbass messed with the wrong people. What were you thinking being an organic in synthetic town.”

“No that can’t be,” Treye lifted his arm slowly as his vision cleared. He sees the clear synthetic skin now seals across what appears to be mechanical fingers. As the extremities open and close you can hear ball bearings and small motors engage. “Holy fuck my hands gone!” He yells out in utter shock. “Wait, you said a woman brought me here? Where did she go?”

“She said if you wish to find her go back to the place we met or something I don’t know. I don’t get paid as a riddler. Look kid, take it easy your body isn’t used to it yet. You’ll need to adapt.”

“Well I guess I’m cured Doc.” Treye gets up from the table, wobbles to his feet as he stands. Annoyed and full of more questions, he begins to leave. “Doc thanks for the help. What little there was.”

“Oh well come back if you mess yourself up more eh, money is always nice from outsiders like you.” Doc chuckled as put some medical tools away.

Treye grabs his bag and rounds out the door leaving most of the past behind. All that mattered was finding Nessa. He clenched his fist with a wince of pain and stormed off into the neon light.