The buildings were all alike, the houses distinguishable by their dirtiness, the businesses marked by neon signs high high in the air. People moved in camps, shiny not-yet-paid-off vehicles loaded with plastic possessions and vacant eyed children, dirty as the homes they came from. The older children swarmed through the streets, doing damage and begging for handouts, ethics removed from any reality they had known.

I entered a home and maybe it was mine. The litter of quickly abandoned entertainment lay all around me, flat screens and glowing green buttons woven into a dangerous web, wires suspended from the ceiling to make way for a path leading to a couch piled high with books, their spines breaking from being forgotten, set down opened to a page whose context had left the mind as easily as it entered.

Stock certificates littered the surfaces of modular pressed wood furniture. A candy dish held a variety of anti-depressants, to make the guests feel welcome. Though there were, of course, no guests. Guests came in through the cable and left the same way. Occasionally they were real and spouting drivel or soliciting some flailing attempt at intimacy; more often they were flawless and engineered, their intimacy warmer than that of other scared humans in other dirty, unlit living rooms.

The refrigerator held all the world's exotic and novel condiments and flat, unfinished cans of highly caffeinated soda. The sink and counters of the kitchen were clean and unused, save stacks of bills ignored, paid with credit cards over the phone or the net. There was a special recycling bin for credit cards used up, ready to be sent back and endowed with fresh smart chips for the next consumer.

The elderly died frequently of heart attacks in their sixties, never having learned to sit and be still. Housewives were members of the nation's hardest-working profession, having to devote much more effort to finding something to do, now that most "household chores" were services to be bought and sold, the people who did the cleaning unfortunate immigrants not yet accustomed to laziness.

And patience was the only mortal sin.

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