• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 01
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The Halfway Bar

You watch the girl wind a fist tight in the last moment and hit her friend so hard she rockets across the ring to bounce on the ropes, and they both laugh as the screen showers with pixelated scores and the characters flicker away back into ethernet cables or drives or whatever and the girls – women maybe, it’s hard to tell these days – move on past empty tables to the next game.

You take your beer across the bar to examine the game machine. It’s all lights – orange, pink, blue, red, purple, green – and screaming incentives on the screen which isn’t really a screen, but hovering light which looks, you think, how an old film projected onto a cloud might. It’s another thing you don’t understand and never have. A fighter rears up in your face for selection. You step back and, nervous, pass the bottle through a bear of a man who roars with anger and somewhere nearby in the bar. There’s giggling and you think it might be at you, but it’s the kind of sound you hear all the time, so you’re not sure.

You shuffle yourself and over to the wall of windows. It’s night-time out there. You’re fifty-seven floors up in Halfway Bar (once upon a time, it would’ve taken bribery to get you that far, what with that lift incident back in the day) and outside it’s raining. For a moment you think the scrapers and advertising and coloured lights – orange, pink, blue, red, purple, green – are a film on the cloud, held aloft by drizzle, trapped and smeared by rivulets on the glass which itself shows a stainless-steel bar tops and naked bulbs and a bartender watching you closely. But it’s real that city, you know it. That city is always there. Even when you close your eyes or drink yourself blind, there it is.


The Halfway Bar

You lean against the glass and bounce on your toes so you can see down to the pavement on the other side of the street, then back to safety, back to the pavement, back to safety. There are taxis waiting to take you home down there. Back to safety. And doormen with water jeweling on their caps. Safety. And water flowing fast into drains.

You stop bouncing to drink.

People call the world small nowadays, but you disagree. The world is huge now – bigger than it’s ever been – because it has replicated itself over and over, a thousand times over, in all the screens, billboards, games and imaginary elysian world your beer bottle tries to sell (honeyed hops and mountain spring water… Bah!). You drink and long for the days when it was just one brain you had to contend with (your own) and when work and school and family and the park and, sometimes, the museum was all packed into a simple-boundaried island which was tiny, little, lovely, and it could all be touched with your own two hands.