Dots, Strips, and Flickers

He didn’t stay to see the streetlights flicker on. His shoes hit sidewalk and he only stopped walking upon reaching the bus station. Two months this time. A new record since he’d walked out his parents’ door years ago.

The doors changed. Intercity lofts with broken buzzers, stucco mansions and their cheap tiled entryways, rusted commune gates. But the reasons he put his back to them and his feet to the road, those never changed.

A lumbering bus pulled to the curb and vomited humanity. He watched them shove against each other’s shoulders and disperse. Discarded food wrappers and bits of shiny plastic wrap tumbled in their teeming wake. A familiar knot turned deep in his gut.

People are parasites grown beyond their ecosystem, he thought. Cruel and careless, inconsiderate of each other and the world they lived in. He leaned against the stop’s bench and closed his eyes.

He wished it was just strangers, the people pouring in and out of buses packed beyond capacity, the masses. It wasn’t. His family abandoned long ago, old girlfriends and boyfriends, the people he’d wanted to call friends.

And himself, desperately needing something from them all and never getting it. He couldn’t stomach the crowded isolation for long, so he left in search of its purer forms, storming out, running away, until the lonelinesses drew him back.

Hours later, his bus trundled far away from the city. He watched it shrink away as the mountain road wove higher. In the dark and through the trees, the city was just dots, strips, and flickers of artificial glare.

It wasn’t enough to leave one city for another, one big depressing human settlement for a small depressing human settlement. He needed to get away from the grids of electricity and consumption, something that would finally break the gnawing dependence on his fellow humans. Somewhere where their synthetic light didn’t poison the sky.

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