The agent led them up the stairs, and up the stairs, and up the stairs. They were marble tiled at first, and then grated metal, and then rickety wood, creaking and squeaking under the pressure of Sam’s and Richard’s footsteps. The walls were so tall and narrow that Richard’s shoulders brushed up against them in some spots, while in others, he had to bend over and crawl. If Sam was stubborn about this place, Richard decided he would have to get the bird suit out again if he didn’t have to walk up and down ten flights of stairs every day. Or Sam could make him some cool looking shoes to help with the process.
The apartment was an okay size-- it was bigger on the inside, at least-- with a cramped kitchen and a small dining and living space. It came with a quaint black table, with an old-looking tea kettle resting on top of it. The agent said the kettle was left behind by the last tenant in their will, after green flames had “swallowed them”. Sam opened the tea kettle, which contained the last tenant’s ashes.
“How nice of them,” he grinned. “Maybe we could invite them over for tea one day?”
Richard nodded with a smile. The apartment came with some nice furniture and a neighbor, and he could see from Sam’s face that he’d already decided he liked it.
He felt better about the decision once he saw that the living room had a twenty-foot ceiling, so all of his messenger birds would have a space for their cages. Poop would be a problem, but they could figure it out later.
There was also a balcony, which had an amazing view of the Starter’s statue. Too good. The massive bearded man, holding the beaming sun in the palms of his hands, loomed over the entire city. His eyes seemed to be staring directly at Richard through the window. At the statue’s feet, all the collapsed and repurposed skyscrapers, and the new ten-mile factories were beginning their climb into the sky. If they did end up buying that apartment, they would be able to watch all those buildings grow and expand over the years. Maybe they would see who would win the sun next, but that wouldn’t be for another fifty years at least.
He imagined the sun’s light would pass through the glass every morning, creating a warm patch of carpet for napping and casting. Sam could use it to conjure up unlimited warm blankets if he wanted, and they could also save a fortune on heating in the winter.
Richard kept the shutters open, despite the Starter’s reigning eye. It made him aware of how little time he had left. He didn’t want to appear ungrateful and treasonous in front of the agent. Not that he was, or anything, and not that the agent would really care either. He would get used to it one day, hopefully.
The agent perched on a coat hanger (an arrow sticking out of the wall) and assured them they wouldn’t have to worry about fire because the apartment came with a blessed bonsai. Sam squealed.
Richard genuinely enjoyed the bathroom. It had one of those cool clawed toilets, and a blessed bonsai growing out of the wall around the vertical slit-shaped window. And the walls! The last tenant must have spent days painting and glazing the tiles with a pantheon of bugs Richard couldn’t recognize. But Sam did, as he demonstrated with delight by listing them off. The agent’s mouths began watering at the sound of some of them, which made Richard laugh under his breath.
The bedroom was okay. It wasn’t remarkable, and Sam already had some ideas for what they could do with it. During winter quarantine, they could paint the walls with their own additions just like the last tenant had done in the bathroom, and the tenant before that had done in the closet. They could bring in some more blessed plants if they wanted, too. Maybe get that Hemnes nightstand from IKEA in there.
They would have to change the light though. Both of them suffered from seasonal depression so they would need the daylight in their room somehow, even if it didn’t have windows. Richard realized the balcony would be perfect for that too, and that’s when he understood the apartment might actually be a wonderful fit for them. It would be a place for them to build new lives, make a home, raise some birds. And Sam was happy with it too, so they signed the lease right then and there.
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