Part 1 of Unfeet by Alex Valdiers
It was hard being a pair of feet in a city that didn’t want you. Everything in Andreapolis was made against the foot. Since humans got hooked up to flyballs, they levitated everywhere they went. It was faster and, as it proved, safer. At first, it was a great idea, then it became a revolution, then it was a billion dollar business and the core of forty-five percent business activities in the city of Andreapolis. Half of Andreapolis town hall’s discussions were centered around converting the city for a footless society.
The first below-knee ablation occurred seven years ago. It was done by a woman named Susie. She made the headlines for a full month, until she got her first follower, then that follower had a follower and he came with his own group of followers. By the end of the year, a little over two thousand people had surgically removed their feet, ankles, and shin, leaving a beautiful round ball of smooth skin below the knee. These people lived with a flyball integrated into their abdomen, right on the belly button. They flew everywhere they went, or more exactly, they hovered. In less than a decade, ninety-nine point eight percent of the population of Andreapolis had followed that trend. Being footless was the norm, and, without doing anything, especially because they did nothing, those who still got around on their feet were now the ones making the headlines. Boyal frequently saw himself on video feeds, walking to work, back from work, to the deli, to Jamland or shopping for moss, with a caption that read ‘Dedrick Boyal, 46, feet sticker’. That was what Andreapolis called people like Boyal, ‘feet sticker’.
“What are you guys doing to me?” Boyal would ask his feet, late at night, lazying in his bath, his ten little toes barely sticking out of the foamy water. “Forty-six years of honorable service,” he would voice back with an affected voice, dangling his feet in rhythm to mimic the movement of lips. “Forty-five, to be exact.” His head dropped to his right shoulder, and he rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “I didn’t walk for… a year, almost two.” He chuckled. “Mama always said I was a late walker.” His feet dangled and splashed some water out of the bathtub. “Whoopsy. What am I going to do with you guys? It’s not that I enjoy walking, I just… don’t want to change, that’s all.” A voice in his head said, ‘we want to stick around’. “But the city is making it so hard for feet stickers,” was Boyal’s answer and the end of the conversation he entertained with his passive rebellious feet.
Boyal wasn’t the only person who stuck to foot for the basic method of transportation around Andreapolis. On the other side of the city, over the hanging gardens sector, Namily confronted herself with the same hurdles as Boyal and the six thousand three hundred and six feet stickers remaining in Andreapolis. For the first time in centuries, it was getting hard for people with feet to get onto another means of city transport. The flybus had long replaced the motorized cabs, but now that most of the people of Andreapolis were equipped with flyballs, there were hardly any needs for flybus. With a little over six thousand users for nine million flybus, you wouldn’t think that successfully hailing a ride would be an issue, but it was. One of the consequences of the feet revolution was that all the unused flybus were progressively being converted to flyballs and permanently fixed to people’s navels. The flyball technology was making wonderful and rapid progress in terms of esthetic and comfort. Long gone were those red basketballs people had to hold onto in order to hover around the city from one point to another, no, those new flyballs were slick and smooth, not bigger than a peanut and nicely integrated to the human’s body, ‘better than feet ever did,’ like the slogan said. It was hard to dispute it, even for Namily, who, unlike the passive rebellious Boyal, was actively against the below-knee ablation.
“It’s becoming impossible to have sex anymore!” She told her girlfriend Lahini, happily married for twelve years running and proud feet owner for thirty-six years.
Lahini frowned. “What do you mean?” she asked and then hoped her friend wouldn’t get into too many details.
Namily slammed her moss cup on the coffee table and stomped her feet. “I can’t have another night with one of those navel dancers. You, you wouldn’t know what it’s like to have sex with a man that has a flyball for feet! They don’t stick on the ground no more. They don’t put their foot on your pillow when they’re slamming you from behind.” Lahini grimaced and hid her discomfort behind her cup of tea. “They all fly up! It’s all in the air now, effortless, they ain’t no more cramps, and I like the cramps! I like when a man gets cramps in his leg from pumping it too hard. It’s all been robbed now!” Namily kicked the coffee table back against Lahini’s knee, who jumped back and spilled tea over her green paper dress.
Namily looked like she was done, her back firmly pushed against the sofa cushion, both arms spread out, holding onto the fabric, head tilted, but then she went on again. “They fly around above your ass, they don’t even use their hips no more, it’s all that navel-fly-ball-pleasure-killing machine. I hate it! And I’ve had it having sex with anyone who doesn’t have both feet on to stand on the ground. I want two feet,” she held out two fingers to Lahini’s face. “And two shins and two knees, nice articulate knees. Knees that pop, pop, pop. That’s what I want to hear,” the tone of her voice calmed down, like a balloon being deflated. “A knee crack,” she concluded with a relax and satisfied tone.
“You’re late again, Boyal.” Mrs. Hakimi hovered above Boyal’s desk. “Third time this month.”
“I’m sorry, it’s… I… I left on time and all, it’s just I couldn’t find a flybus.”
“I couldn’t care less, Boyal. We’re paying you to start work at 6 pm, not 6.15, not 6.45, not 7 o’clock like last week.”
Boyal’s face dropped. He looked like he was carrying all the miseries of the world on his shoulders. “I know Mrs. Hakimi. It’s just that lately it’s getting so hard to…” he stopped because his boss gave him the scissor signs with both hands. “Alright, I’ll make this quick.”
“Not that, dummy. I don’t care about your story.” She turned around as if ready to leave Boyal’s office. “Just do like everyone else, cut them off.” And then she flew off, leaving Boyal flabbergasted. He pushed the chair out of his desk and stared down at his feet, mouthing cursing words. But he soon stopped. It was stupid, a reaction he shouldn’t have. It was all that pressure from his boss and the city. His feet hurt. Yet his feet did the best they could. When Boyal realized there was no flybus around to be hailed, his feet ran as fast as they could throughout five sectors. It was a miracle he made it to his desk only fifteen minutes late. His feet did well. It wasn’t their fault. Yet the blame was being put on them. It was unfair. But that wasn’t right, was it? The blame wasn’t put on the feet, it was on Boyal’s head, for not going along with the below-knee operation.
He shook the thought out of his head and flapped his lips like a horse whining. “Right,” he motivated himself. “I’ve already lost about twenty minutes. Let’s get to it.” And Boyal plunged himself into the daily workload of readjusting mineral corruptions in high-density areas of Andreapolis, a job that required almost constant supervision and that Boyal once found exhilarating and captivating. Nowadays, his mind was taken over by foot adjustments issues. So his job became a job, nothing else.