The glow of the sunrise crept into the night sky. The faint light appearing in the horizon stretched across a city revealing hundreds of buildings from different eras arranged like a patchwork quilt, towering skyscrapers reaching for the skies, and long highways of rails that weave through the city. Blooming trees, lush bushes and vibrant flower gardens decorated the city streets.
At a plain 19th century British apartment, a woman in a light grey suit burst out of the front door. She waved to her elderly neighbour standing nearby as she sprinted down the street. Clacking along in her high heels, she cursed herself for wanting an extra bowl of cereal at the last minute. She hoped her legs could take her to the bus stop in time before there was a crowd of people. A family with three energetic children passed by her as she ran. One of the kids had a lion's tail wagging side to side, while another sailed around the parents on a surfboard of wind. The third and smallest was holding onto his parents' hands, swinging back and forth. Their mother gave off a gentle aura with her light pastel coloured clothing and their father wore business casual with a black masquerade mask over his eyes.
“That would be so good right now,” she thought to herself looking at the board of air as she ran. The mother noticed and hesitated for a moment before her husband gave a slight reassurance.
Soon, she makes it to the bus stop and there was a line of people beside an orange rectangle on the road. While lining up behind a pair of businesswomen, she checks her watch to learn the next bus will arrive in three minutes. As she looks back up, a very large pair of antlers waved side to side near the front of the line. It looked like the person was in the middle of a phone call while everyone in line was staring at the majestic antlers. It reminded her of an elk she had seen America, but, unlike them, it was a ghostly beige, with gold ornaments dangling off like piercings.
A long streamline bus arrived and stopped within the rectangle. The body of the bus was plain white with red stripes from its nose to the back. The shape reminded her of the bullet trains in Japan while the stripes gave her the idea of a hospital floor. Its stripes glowed which were quite useful at night from what she remembered. The stripes faded to black and the bus made three slow beeps. The walls on both side slides upward to reveal two rows of upholstered benches lined up in the middle. To her surprise, it was nearly empty.
“Guess I got lucky,” she whispered to herself. As she was boarding, she heard a loud clang at the front of the bus. She turned to see the person's antlers bumping into the ceiling. The person used a mirror to make sure nothing broke or fell off before taking his seat. She wondered if he cuts his own antlers or if it was done by someone else.
Once everyone was on board, the bus makes three beeps again and the walls slowly come down. The bus was consumed in darkness and the walls make a loud click. A moment later, the walls lit up to reveal the outside as though the wall itself was never there. Floating near the ceiling, a string of text stretched across the whole bus which displayed the next stop in dark purple text. Advertisements blinked into the scenery every while before disappearing, none of which interested her.
She stared outside waiting for the bus to start moving and notice who she sat next to. It was a family of three, but more notably, the father. He had a large tattoo of a great fire that wrapped around his right arm and spread to his right cheekbone. As she stared longer, the blacken tattoo seem to move slowly and dance like a real fire. The father felt something odd and turned his head. Quickly, she looked out at the changing scenery before he noticed. It was always a surprise to see the bus moving because she didn't feel any force.
The world outside passed by her quickly but it never failed to amaze her. It was as though she was going on a round the world journey seeing all the different buildings pass by her. Each stop it made, she would see another piece of the world as though she was there. Once the bus arrives at a block with modern skyscrapers, most, including her, had climbed out of the bus and headed towards the same direction.
She walked next to two sets of triple lanes which were divided by flower gardens and a wide path underneath an endlessly long monorail track. An opaque glass tube wrapped a section of the rails further ahead. A bridge stretched over the road and went through the tube, joining the sidewalks on both sides. She walked towards the bridge and up its shallow slope, trying to avoid looking over the rails. Unexpectedly next to her, a goat was trotting up with a suitcase on its horn. It looked at her with its confused gaze and gave a soft cry. She returned a warm greeting to the goat as she got close to the tube.
Inside there was a large platform. It was split into two by the rails but joined by two sets of ramps which weaved underneath the platform. The floor is filled with rows of well-crafted wooden benches facing the tracks. Most people sat at the benches, and very few were standing near the entrances. Near the rails, there was an orange stripe and a tall metal wall that divided the people from the rails. She sat down on the bench to wait and passed the time by making guesses who could be unique.
Suddenly, she hears two beeps. She turns her head to the left and spots a silver worm rocketing down the rail through the blurry glass. The train arrives and softly stops perfectly in the station. Like the bus before, it had a very streamline design with a long nose. Unlike the bus, the train was much larger in width and height, and had several train cars attached. The walls on the platform lowered until it became part of the floor. The train made three beeps and its sides opened slowly upward. Everyone approached the train and made their way inside as the passengers were leaving.
As expected, the train was much more spacious. The benches were facing forward and placed on the other side of the doors. It took up half the train inside and there were long poles from the floor to ceiling spread out along the middle. She took a seat on one of the many benches but some chose to stand rather than sit down. Once everyone was inside, the walls sink back down and it lights up to reveal the outside. The barrier on the platform rises quickly and the train starts to move as soon as the wall fully rises. The scenery changes quickly, yet the ride didn't bump at all. She spots a small group of large beast-like people standing at the corner of the train car. Only one of them could be clearly seen, a faun wearing a white t-shirt and sweatpants. Their large frame, fierce eyes, and broken right horn seem to reflect decades worth of struggles and hardship. The faun seem to sense her gaze and shifted a step over to make sure she didn't see their friends.
Eventually, the train arrives at her stop and she joins the crowd of people leaving the station. Arriving her workplace, her hand hesitates to open the door. She checks the time again and it was quarter before nine. Relieved, she decides to grab a quick cup of coffee from the cafe nearby. The streets were crowded with people. It was impossible to examine everyone who past her for there were too many people who stood out.
When she arrived, she quickly stepped inside the cafe and took a look around. It had many dark wood chairs and benches upholstered with green cushions, and wooden tables. The room had green trims and knickknacks along the walls and corners of the room. She saw nobody but an old man sitting with a cup of hot tea in front of him. He held a newspaper with bold words that says “Lucky Clover News”.
She walks towards the counter and rings the bell. A barista with orange cat ears and tail walks out of a room nearby. She wore a green beret and an apron with a name tag which says “Lora”. A cheeky smile grew on Lora's face when she saw the woman. Her tail swings back and forth as she looks around for ingredients.
Lora asked, “Hey Emma. The usual?” She had already started to grab a jar of coffee beans and poured some into a grinder.
The woman named Emma replied, “Yes please.” Lora had started grinding the beans and took out a pitcher of cream from the small fridge underneath the counter.
“You working up quite a sweat today. Another rough morning?” Her eyes squints which seem to emphasize the grin she had.
“Y-Yes, I was little late today.” Emma let out a timid smile, unsure how to respond to the question. Lora lets out a giggle and took out the coffee grind and a filter. She placed the filter onto a clear cup and poured the grind into the filter before grabbing a kettle and pouring hot water into it.
“How come,” Lora asked. She waits for the coffee to drip and walks back to the counter. She rested her arms on the counter and waited expectantly for an answer,
“”Couldn't help having seconds.” Emma let a chuckle. “He's cooking my favourite today.”
“Oh you, share some of his cooking. I still can't find one for the life of me.” Lora sighed looking disappointed.
Emma lets out a small laugh. “Alright alright, I'll see if I can get some for you next time.” Lora jumps up and her tail twirls ecstatically. The old man nearby took a peek at the counter and let out a small smile.
Lora exclaimed, “You're the best.” Her tail wagged around as she went back to get the coffee. The filter was moved onto a pitcher revealing the coffee underneath. She sprinkles some sugar and pours a thin layer of cream on top. A lid is fitted on and she hands over the fresh cup of coffee to Emma. They say good bye to each other and Emma heads back to her workplace.
After some time, she makes it back and takes the elevator up to a chaotic office. Dozens of people were running back and forth while others were struggling at their desk yelling at their phone and staring at their computer. The office had many cubicles with a sign which read “Jack the News Boy” in large grey blocks attached to the wall. She wondered why the office was in a panic right now.
“Hey! You finally showed up! Help me with editing this, he's at it again.” A man with thick glasses waves to her to come over.
“Who?” She approaches him quickly. On the desk, there was a notepad with scribbles of notes, and several pictures of someone on the computer. The pictures still felt odd to her since she knew from experience how far the photographer probably was when they took them.
“The SDA of course! Lucky Clover already got the story out. We need to get ours out ASAP.” She took a closer look at the computer and sees a familiar man in the photos. His face was looking away from the camera, likely in the middle of giving orders to everyone in that moment. He was tall with a lean figure and his hair was combed back. He wore black gloves with white fingertips, a tan, brown suit, and hung a large crystal ornament on his belt. The ornament was the size of an open hand and shaped like a “T” with a golden string on top. He was pointing at the door with his left hand and talking to someone in one photo. In other pictures, she saw blurrier photos of him, as well as several officers surrounding the bank. She gave the article a quick skim.
“There's a few typos here. Let me handle it.” She takes over the computer and fixes the typos. “Are there better pictures of him than these?”
“These are all we got. Photographers got caught.” She quickly cycles through all of the photos.
“Switch to this. His face is clearer here and you get a better angle of the bank as well.” The photo featured a man walking towards a broken wall. He had a narrow face, rounded chin and a serious expression which showed how little he tolerated. His brown eyes had a deep gold tint which added more to his serious demeanour. She felt a heavy thud on her back and turns around to see a large suit. Emma adds, “Oh hello sir.”
The figure replied with a deep growl, “Emma, I like your dedication, but you should get to your desk. I need you to finish that draft by lunch.”
“Yes sir!” She quickly walked over to her desk to put down her belongings and took a seat. The tower of folders piled at her desk seem to have grown from yesterday. She lets out a big sigh and thought to herself how tough it was to work at the news company with him causing a commotion every week. At the same time, she felt lucky her wage and safety was much better than her previous job. Maybe it was that fresh economy idea she heard about from her accountant. Or because of the city itself brimming with possibilities. Was it the strict rules and manpower the city needed to function. Yes, that's probably it. It was Cain's City after all. A safe haven for the unique people called Dreads.
Unlike any other, the majority of the people who live in this city are Dreads and their family. Here, they can have a daily life like any other person as long as they follow the SDA's guidelines for their powers. In her mind as a dime in dozen human, Dreads were wild fantasies in real life. Being born equal to everyone else only to gain hidden powers at the age of 11. Nobody knows how it worked. The only thing she did know was that they've been around for a very long time.
Despite living in Cain's City for several weeks now, it was still unreal to her. The city itself was far different than anything she had seen. Each block had a different style and time period of architecture from around the world. Public transit wasn't congested, and the roads weren't cluttered by cars. Rather, a whole underground highway system was created for commuters and delivery trucks to move around the city while public transit and emergency vehicles were moving around on the surface. But most definitively, no one minded the Dreads. Her unique coworkers weren't exploited for their powers nor threaten with termination if they refused. Some are even an integral part of the whole company as an executive. Even the streets at night were peaceful. There wasn't any feeling of being watched by someone from some dark alleyway or ragged groups of families shambling the streets. It was no longer a battleground for survival between Dreads who had nothing but themselves and the populace who wanted them to go away. She leaned back in her chair and opened one of many folders on her desk.
“This was better,” she told herself. “Weeks of paperwork for some damn good peace around here.” She went back to working on her tasks but she was reminded of something. One person who she could never forget, the man in the photo, the Head of the SDA. Her hands shook, the memory of his cold demeanour and piercing eyes still made her shudder like a bad dream.