He couldn’t explain it, but the possibility of a better life crystallized a truth that had been sneaking up on him, filling his head with anxieties he could not silence. When he and Elric left their homes together, he thought they’d be allowed to live. That they would be free to make their choices and that their love would be enough to see them through any rough patches. He still loved El, but he knew they couldn’t live at the mercy of luck much longer. They were an inspection away from a jail cell, a short illness from debt or death. Eventually, they would need a doctor or a dentist, a stable home, or an unemployment check.
El always said he would rather die. Better to die than bow down and live someone else’s life. Connor was not so brave as that, not after what they had already been through. He hoped, when it came to it, Elric wasn’t either. Connor hoped he could compromise enough to survive.
A technoir novelette featuring a cyberpunk circus, the cutting edge of mind-reading, and futuristic medical drama. Two young men decide what they will give up to live safely in a world that treats them as nothing more than exploitable resources.
“Sideshow” was first published on Palisatrium’s Short Story Substack.