Unfeet

Unfeet

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.

# Part 2

Before the foot revolution, living around the hanging gardens of Andreapolis felt like paradise. Namily used to take long strolls after work, before work, on weekends around the gardens, losing herself in the maze of the green alleys overflowing with a myriad of exotic flowers and wild plants. The gardens were so alive, so oneiric and so clean. Nowadays, strolling on foot along the garden paths was a wet affair at best, but most of the time, it was a mud bath. Some clever non-inclusive official down at town hall decided to change the irrigating system of the gardens, since almost the entire population hovered rather than walked. In truth, it affected very little people, a handful really, but it affected Namily and it made her life miserable. The water constantly flew down the alleys, carrying big clumps of earth and many dead or severed leaves. Namily ruined many good shoes along those dripping wet alleys, and shoes were fast becoming a luxury.

In a society progressively becoming footless, shoe manufacturers either saw it coming and changed their operation in time, or they soldiered on, raging head first towards bankruptcy. The last time Namily purchased a pair of shoes from a manufacturer was two years ago. Since then, she got to buy many shoes, all secondhand from people who surgically removed their feet. At first, it was easy, and cheap. There were shoes everywhere, and people were selling them off for almost nothing. Namily should have stocked up in time. Now she regretted it. The second-hand shoe market became suddenly so big that it saturated and died. It ate itself. It happened what usually happened when there are too many products on the market and not enough buyers. The average selling price fell below the threshold that made it financially interesting for sellers to bother listing their shoes. So instead of selling off their shoes, footless people began to dump them. Millions of shoes were being incinerated each month. And now the world faced a shortage of shoes, and quickly second-hand shoes that were being sold for a dollar became ten dollars, forty, a hundred… a thousand. That was the going price for a decent pair of shoes, barely worn.

It was more money than Namily could afford to spend on her feet. So, after messing up too many semi-decent pairs of shoes just walking back from work through the gardens, Namily made the esthetically painful and nonetheless financially hurtful decision to place the last of her shoe money of a worn-out pair of plastic boots. Their impermeability was intact, but they made a squeaking sound every time Namily took a step. As if Namily didn’t stand out enough by being a foot sticker, she had to make a sound everywhere she walked to attract even more attention on her feet. Even other feet stickers were troubled by it and stared down at her.

“All of this,” she told herself. “Was the footless people’s fault. If they hadn’t cut them off, there’d still be machines making shoes these days, or at least repairing them.” Namily’s anger at the foot revolution grew one inch bigger every day.

#

Once in a while, the night shift team at Boyal’s office broke early from work to knock a few cerveza and IPAs at the Depot before closing time. It wasn’t a compulsory outing and those who decided to remain at work were not chastised. Boyal had flunked out the last two times, but he was looking forward to enjoy a morning beer with his co-workers. He hadn’t been late for two full weeks, he even showed up forty-five minutes early twice, it was the both times he managed to catch a flybus. The rest of the time, he walked to work, and he got there on time because he left home an hour early every day.

It was an hour of his sleep taken away, and a huge load of worry added to his already troubled mind. He was constantly tired and feeling under pressure, and it really affected his daily life and performance. His job was the same, yet it suddenly became harder. Simple dosage he would have done without thinking twice only a month ago now took him two or three checks. These added amount of simple checks meant he took longer to do his job and had less time for himself. Normally, Boyal would work at a leisurely pace, dragging out his seven hourly checks, one every 8 minutes, giving him a four-minute buffer. But his buffer was long gone, and he wasn’t dragging anymore, he was rushing to complete the seventh adjustment under the hour. Monitoring mineral corruption around Andreapolis wasn’t interesting any longer. It was stressful.

And so, Boyal really could use a drink, he needed to unwind. When the idea was thrown around the office that tonight would be a good one to crash at the Depot before dawn, Boyal jumped in, all enthusiastic and naïve. He had gone to the Depot for years with the team. It was a routine well-oiled practice, ‘knock off at five, get to the front of the building, hitch a flybus, travel the twenty-three blocks to the Depot and stay until closing up time at seven’. He didn’t anticipate once in his mind that his late troubles of getting a flybus to get to work would be replicated for his drinking escapade. When the time came, he followed the drinking team out of the building, running lightly on his feet behind the hovering troop, struggling to keep up with their slow pace. He lifted his hand up and hailed a flybus as soon as his foot hit the pavement, but there were no flybus in sight, no red ball loosely flying above ground, waiting to get hired by the handful of feet sticker who would be up and about at five o’clock in the morning.

There would be no flybus to get Boyal to the Depot, and his co-workers weren’t about to miss their occasional get together on account of Boyal’s stubborn decision to live on his own two feet. So they flew off and left Boyal to run after them, still holding his hand up, hoping to catch a flybus as he made his way past the first block towards the Depot. He never found another means of transportation than his own two feet, and not only, when he got there, the Depot was about to close, but there was no flybus around the bar either and now Boyal was twenty-three blocks further away from his home.

That morning, with the fatigue from the running, added to the deception of missing out on a well-deserved round of cerveza, it took Boyal four and a half hours to get home. Two flybus flew over his head when he was about five blocks from his apartment. He ignored them. The evil was already done. Once at home, he sat on his corridor bench to carefully remove his pair of well-worn dress up shoes. His feet were bleeding, and the inner soles of his left shoe were covered in blood. He didn’t even know if he could wash it off. He wouldn’t even try.

# Part 3

Day after day Namily felt Andreapolis was pushing her to surgically remove her feet. There were constant innovations that favored the foot revolution, those navel-flybus-walkers, and discriminated against the feet stickers. The dirty waters running through the hanging gardens alleys were not the only thing she had to look for when walking out of her apartment. Now Namily had to watch for the advertisement boards that were fitted to the ground. The building facades were not enough for the advertising firms, they had to corrupt the soil too.

One day that Namily was wearing her last pair of heel boots, she hit the pavement a little too hard and made a dent on the advertisement screen that had been fitted overnight. The Andreapolis autopolice was quick to fall on her case and issue her with a fine and a possible court order from Dentmoss, the company who paid for the pavement advertisement.

Namily paid the fine reluctantly, and though she kept her mouth shut, inside she boiled and called the autopolice flyball agent by all the unfashionable mechanical names she could think of. Now it was official, the city wanted her out. It made no doubt in her mind.

#

During his lunch breaks, Boyal hid to browse through the surgical cosmetic advertisements. Companies were slashing prices on the procedure, surely because they were now running out of customers. They were offering discounts up to seventy-five percent on the procedure, some were even offering two years of knee skin maintenance. One advertisement came with free tickets to Jamland and a year subscription to Top Moss. It was the one ad that attracted Boyal and he felt silly for having his attention diverted to moss when the most important decision of his life was at hand. Still, the idea of a nice cup of magna moss was alluring. And before his lunch break was over, Boyal had convinced himself to walk to the nearest Moss Toss cafe on his way back from work.

At this point, Boyal had given up on the idea of hitching a flybus to get anywhere in Andreapolis. In the most technologically advanced city in the world, Boyal was condemned to use his foot as a sole means of transport. The idea was preposterous, yet he shook his head when looking down at his feet and blamed them for the uneasy feeling of being out of breath and sweaty half of the day.

It took him longer than usual to get to Top Moss, even by foot standards, and, in fact, Boyal almost never made it. Some city designer had the nonsensical idea to dump a heat generator right in the middle of a crossway, blocking each entry towards Heck St. Boyal had no choice but to climb on top of it to get through, it was how big his craving for moss was. He slipped on the ledge and almost fell on his face. Instead, he grazed his knee on the generator’s hard outer skull and hurt his right ankle in his unsteady landing. He limped the rest of the way to the moss cafe.

#

Behind the cover of her moss cup, Namily scrutinized the inside of the cafe and counted the number of feet around the place. The place was packed, it was eight a.m., rush hour between the people who finished the night shift and those who had just woken up and were about to start their day. Yet, inside Top Moss, there were only four feet to kick dirt on its black and white checkers tile floor. Two of those feet were familiar, very familiar. They were her own proud and rebellious feet. The other two belonged to a lady sitting at the table behind Namily. They were dragging-feet, drained of all life and hope. Their owners spent her entire moss cup discussing her upcoming below-knee operation to someone who could have been her wife.

As that lady and her partner left the store, suddenly in a hurry to get those feet moving, Namily felt alone, very alone. Until the corner of her eye caught that lanky man limping across the street. He walked to the glass door and pushed it open. And there they were, two magnificent yet damaged feet. They were covered in used yet stylish white trainers with red laces.

“I like that,” Namily murmured as she watched the man making his way through the moss pots laden floor of the cafe. A table one up and right from Namily was free and clean and, secretly, she begged the lanky man with the loose collar shirt to pick it and sit opposite her.

# Part 4

Top Moss at 8 a.m. was vibrating with life. Almost all the tables were occupied save for two. One was in front of the moss counter, right on the main passageway, the other inside the square, located on a black tile. Boyal liked that, it felt more cozy. He tottered through the rows of cafe tables, made his way to the free table and sat facing the moss counter. As soon as he sat, Boyal noticed two playful eyes smiling at him behind a moss cup. They belonged to a rather charming lady of Boyal’s age. She delicately lowered the cup of moss and tilted her head towards the feet sticker. She was ginger and had fire cheeks. When the cup hit the table, she dangled on her seat and the most graceful left leg Boyal had seen in a long time stuck out of the table. She was a feet sticker. She obviously wanted Boyal to know it, and stupidly, without thinking, he stood back up, stepped out of the chair and presented his two intact yet hurtful lanky legs. She puffed out, laughing. He smiled back. She was alone and invited Boyal to sit with her.

Suddenly the pain was gone in his right ankle and he pranced the five steps that lead to her table.

“I am very attracted to men with feet,” she said straight out.

Boyal winked, put a cute face on as he sat in front of her and said, “can’t say we have that in common.”

And in an instant, the charming cutesy mood was broken. “Oh, you’re thinking of cutting them off?”

“What? Oh, no no.” Boyal said, and the discounted advertisement of below-knee operations he watched all week flashed before his eyes. “Never ever considered it,” he lied. “I was just making a joke, you know, with you liking men, being a woman, and me, being a man, not liking men.” His face mimicked his confused state. It was painful to watch.

“Good,” the woman said, leaning forward. Boyal leaned towards her. “We’re a dying species.” And she pushed herself back against her chair. “My name is Namily, I am very attracted to you. Married?”

“Wh… huh, no.”

“Not attracted?”

“Not married.”

#

From Boyal’s forty-second-floor apartment, the view of Andreapolis almost looked like the city of old, the city both Namily and Boyal grew up in, before the age of the feet revolution. The skyscrapers were the same, and from a distance all of Andreapolis cornerstone attraction looked the same as they always did. The emporium still stood to the West, the hanging gardens were in the North, right after the suspended lake of Artoria, then there was the temple mountain, above which all the flybus were always forbidden to fly.

“Sometimes I think I could just dive here, from that window,” Boyal said as he pushed his living room window open, “and land into the past.” He leaned forward, head above the emptiness below, his hair fluffing in the wind. “I’ll jump, and a flybus will catch me before my fall.” Boyal leaned back to safety. “The roads would be cleared, the pavements used for walking, not advertisements. We’ll all have both our legs and we wouldn’t ever think about changing it.”

Below the covers of the sofa bed, Namily lingered, her body naked, frisky, her hair disheveled, sticking to her forehead with sweat. “And what will you do then?”

He turned back, one hand on the window handle, he pulled it back and closed it. “I’ll go to the hanging gardens, and look for a girl with fire hair, freckles around her ankles and an insatiable appetite for love.”

Namily turned on her back and stared at the ceiling. Her visage took a sombre, less playful tone. “No offense, darling, but in a city full of two legged-men, you’ll have your work cut out for you before I take heed of that long face of yours.”

“Don’t you like my long face?”

“I do, I adore it.” Namily opened her arms towards him, calling him for a hug. She waited for him to lie on her and rest his head against her breasts to add. “It’s the best long face of all the two-legged men in Andreapolis.”

# Part 5

A year after their marriage, Namily and Boyal knew all the feet stickers in Andreapolis by sight. There were but a handful of them left, yet there were still two legged people living in Andreapolis, despite the city’s blatant ignorance of their presence and their need to move about. Eighty-three percent of the streets had been transformed and were now non-walking streets. The flybus had ceased to operate, which meant that getting out and about through Andreapolis was a near impossible affair. As a result of those thoughtless changes, most feet stickers had relocated in the Vevoel sector, where a small block of three avenues crossed by four streets had been left untouched. There were about six hundred feet stickers living in the Vevoel sector, but that number decreased on a weekly basis.

“I want you to seriously consider it,” said Namily as she closed the kitchen door on Boyal, forcing him to stay in the same room as her to go through with a discussion he delayed for too long.

“I have, and I have already told you, I won’t run away from who I am.”

Namily erupted. “No, that’s what you say. But I know you. Believe me, darling. I know you. You haven’t thought about it. You decided long ago that you’d live and die in Andreapolis and you never looked back on it. Even with the feet revolution happening. It’s some kind of a defensive system with you. You decided everything at one point in your life and you stick to it. Just getting you out of your mother’s apartment was like ripping your heart apart.”

Boyal was pained. He stared at the floor and his two feet, only one of them wore a sock. “It was a great place, you know it. I had lots of memories there. And, you know, there was the view.”

“Screw the view. That view was in your head. You saw there what you wanted to see. But it’s all changed. It is, darling. Andreapolis isn’t the city we grew up in.” Namily put both her hands on her husband shoulders and searched his mouth with her lips. “It’s time for us to leave.”

Boyal shook his head, resisting his wife’s kiss, pushing her and this future away. “I don’t want to live in the wilderness. I’m no good with my hands. I wouldn’t know what to do.”

“So you’d rather stay here in this stinking apartment to adjust your minerals all day?”

Boyal shook his head, but he could not face her. “At least I know what I am doing, and it’s safe.”

“Safe? Safe?” She banged on the kitchen counter. “We’re parked in Vevoel like animals. That ain’t living.” She rolled her eyes and heaved at length. “I won’t stand for it.” She took a long look at her husband, then grabbed his chin with her finger. “I am leaving. With or without you, darling.”

#

It was rumored that outside Andreapolis’ walls, beyond the great barrens, the new city of Polipolis was growing at a fantastic rate. It was a paradise for full-fledged humans, and Boyal often imagined himself living there, at the side of his ex-wife Namily, carrying wood, plowing fields, doing all sorts of archaic hard labor, just to feed themselves.

“To do all that work just to eat unhealthy nutrients,” he spoke aloud to himself, like he often did since he lived alone in that spacious apartment the city converted for him in Footland.

In twenty minutes, the park gates would open, he better got ready. He needed to do his hair and put a clean pair of slacks on. He checked his feet, the nails were nice and clean. He rubbed a bit of moss cream on his archs nonetheless, more by habit than need. Then he finished his preparations for the day and sat in his lounge chair.

The lights came on, the first humans came to visit through the protective window. They hovered by the dozen to marvel at Boyal’s two passive rebellious feet.

The End

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