A Tale for the Modern Attention Span
Beth Breath walked achingly into his office. “Mr. Bolt, it’s 11:00 p.m. The cafeteria’s not open.”
“We’ve been here for 36 hours straight.”
“You’re telling me it’s night time?”
“Yes,” Beth responded abjectly.
Steel rose from his chair, walked over to the window and pulled back the curtains to look for himself. That’s when it happened. Why exactly, it’s hard to say. It could have been the darkness, or the lack of sleep; or perhaps it was the realization that he was no longer in control? Whatever the reason, all of the muscles in Steel’s body—the ones that had been so painfully contracted for days—suddenly gave out. He was forced to grab the curtains to keep from falling. He held on, swaying listlessly for a few seconds, before moaning, “Oh, Miss Breath, what am I going to do? No matter how long I stare at that machine, those numbers are not coming back. I’m screwed. My life is over.”
Naturally, Beth was baffled. Never in their time together had she seen Steel display any vulnerability. What she witnessed next was even more bewildering.
With his back to Beth Breath, still holding on to the curtains for support, Steel Bolt’s entire body convulsed in a sob.
Beth rushed toward him. She’d also never before possessed the courage to touch him, but now she slid her arms around his waist and pasted her chest and cheek to his back. She said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Bolt. We’ll figure this out.”
“No, Miss Breath” he answered with resignation, “I think it’s over.”
“But Steel, together we can do any—”
That’s when Steel Bolt remembered that he was Steel Bolt, and self-pitying was not something he did. He stood up straight, forcing Beth to let go of him. He kept his back to her and said, “Go home, Miss Breath. Tomorrow we’ll start planning the best way to liquidate our assets.”
She lingered for a moment.
“I will see you tomorrow, Miss Breath,” Steel said succinctly.
Beth departed without another word (though inwardly she was screaming at herself for letting an opportunity—one that would perhaps never come again—slip away).
If you need proof of how fucking hungry Steel Bolt was, look no further than the fact that on the way home he patronized the drive-thru of one of those godawful fast food places; one that he claimed he would not eat at even if the only other option were a steaming bowl of shit.
The next morning when Viveka informed Steel that a seventeen-year old high school student, hired by Huns Burger just a week before, had been found with her skull crushed and her pants around her ankles, he wasn’t surprised. Nor did his muscles re-contract. Steel Bolt had given up.