He’d met a traveler once  in a tavern by the Ube. She was a runner from the floating city of Kor, appalled at the state of things in the Black, and he had to agree. She must have been fresh on her feet, as it was her first time in Denid, and she’d asked if the whole city was like the Black. Leaping to  the defense of his city, he told her all about the Miner’s Quarter, with it’s rough men and women forged deep in the heart of the earth and about the Wharf district, with its traffic and travelers. Each was still crowded, but not nearly as bad as it was here. The houses were bigger, the money better, and everything wasn’t covered in the smoke and soot of the factories. It was just unfortunate that her path had brought her here first.

When she didn’t seem impressed, and he knew she wouldn’t be having come from Kor, he told her about the Rose District. That was the place to be. Clean streets, rich families going about their business in safety, few crowds. And the buildings, such beautiful buildings. People in the Rose District certainly didn’t have to worry about clocking themselves on a shelf when they awoke in the night. There were fruit stands up there larger than his apartment. And it smelled wonderful. He would go for walks up there sometimes, at least until the guards spotted him and shooed him away. It wasn’t that people from the Black weren’t allowed in the district; they just weren’t particularly welcome. But before he would inevitably get spotted, he could pretend, just for a moment, that he belonged there, that this was the city he lived in.

He had had a bit too much to drink that night, trying to keep up with the runner. There weren’t that many women lining up to spend time with a nobody factory worker, at least not without asking for payment, but somehow she was still talking to him. Famke was a good friend, but that wasn’t quite the same. He’d gone a bit too far, though, and was showing too much of his hand. He started getting boastful, a bad drunken habit of his. He let his admiration of the Rose District really shine through, and realized that he was starting to sound a bit pathetic, so he upped the ante. He told her he would live there one day, that he was going to be one of the few to make it out of the Black and move up the hill. It was true, at least, that it’s what he wanted more than anything. It had been his dream since he was a child. He’d grown up looking up the hill at the shining houses above the smoke, and he knew that somehow, someday, it would be his turn. And then she did the unthinkable. She told him he should just leave.

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