The middle of a heat wave in Eburd. The temp report on the reader had been bugged for three days, flickering between 244 and 01, so nobody knew exactly how hot it was – except “too hot.” The neighborhood cisterns were on a rolling shutdown, each block getting water for two-hour intervals, and caravans of kids with wagons full of bottles and jugs were snaking under the river every night and breaking open service spigots in the milzone. All the fans in the neighborhood were pulling hard on the generators, too, and although they hadn’t put those on rolling shutdown yet, it had been openly discussed on freenet as a Good Idea to not run any unnecessary equipment until further notice. Just the fridge, a couple of fans, lamps in occupied rooms at night, and use as much solar gen as you have access to. Brownouts happened anyway. You could make decent money selling ice cubes if your freezer managed to stay cold.
Wren had moved the chickens off the roof and out of the sun. His kitchen was overrun with them now, and even his bedroom wasn’t safe – Hellbitch and the Demon Whore followed at his heels and ran flapping over his feet into the room every time he opened the door. The birds were all over the stairwell too. The door to his music loft was closed, and an amplifier dragged in front of it to make sure it stayed that way, but he could hear clucking on the other side of it.
Most of the front wall of the loft was windows. Only one of them had glass in it, but Wren pried the boards off of the others and left them stacked against the wall. No refreshing breezes came in, and he almost felt like it was hotter outside than in – a fucking waste of effort, letting all the heat in to his studio. The acoustics were probably getting warped.
He picked one up to test it out. It was slightly out of tune, and he fixed it dourly, certain this was a sign of Things to Come. Watch it just slide right back out of tune as soon as he started playing it. Strings probably melting. Wood all fucked up from the heat.
He kicked a chair over into a patch of shadow at the edge of the window light, sat down, and played.
Nothing in particular. A couple of the old classics to limber up. A few of his own things. Then just noodling. He ran into something interesting involving a D chord and some hammering on the high E, switch to a G, repeat; he played around with that, found some complements to it. It started to take shape pretty well. He paused long enough to reach into a crate behind him, find a tambourine, and throw it on the ground by his chair. Back to playing, and in his mind he built up a decent drumline for it, ghosting it in by tapping his foot on the floor and kicking the tambourine at intervals. There were a few ways a melody could go for this, and he tested some of them out. Not even trying for lyrics – the words coming out of his mouth were just complaints about the heat – but the tune would hold up, if he found the right one.
He was almost happy with it when he realized Them Fuckin’ Kids were outside. Outside and shouting words at his window, no less. Wren hadn’t even felt the little shits, he’d been so caught up in the music. He dropped the guitar and stood, leaned out of one of the windows, pushed sweat-soaked hair out of his eyes so he could glare more effectively. “I AIN’T OPEN TODAY. GO HOME. It’s too fuckin’ hot to work. Shit’s probably gonna cook off on its own anyway, blow my whole fuckin’ house up. Go away.”
They grinned up at him. Fresh’s mohawk was limp and drooping at the ends, the glue softened by the heat. Dandy’s hat was missing, and he and Spit had freezer bags tied to their heads with wet handkerchiefs. They all looked ridiculous, and they were way too cheerful for living in an oven. Fresh even waved at him. “That was a really cool song!”
“I ain’t playin’ it for you!”