So what, I’m a snail now?
I looked down at the thick key. They called it a key, but it was more like an electronics board that you plugged in, like an SSD memory.
I took the metro and located my new job. I wasn’t due till next morning, but I haven’t been in the city before, and I tried not to get lost. My new corporate gig was quite nice, a skyscraper at the modern part of Istanbul. Along the way, I couldn’t help but notice the myriad of homeless people and the distinct lack of them the closer I got to the corporate center.
I looked up at my new job. It was daunting, but I’d deal with that tomorrow. Now I wanted to try out this new key of mine. I opened the Cochleus app and found a condominium nearby. It was full, so I tried the next one.
A few slots were available, so I leased it for a month. I followed the app’s instructions, pulling my carry on bag behind me, and found the condo. It was a blocky building, bland and corporate, prefab. Nothing distinctive, nothing soulful, except the logo.
Home is where you felt it, the tagline said.
Well, this was my new home.
I walked upstairs and found the empty slot. First floor, third on the right. It was just another door in a row of more doors. Nondescript but it looked heavy, like it sealed tight.
A young woman came out of the door next to me. “Hi, neigbor!” She turned around and locked her key, then a warning showed up in the control pad. I couldn’t help but notice that it said: ‘Pet detected. Confirm unmount? Y/N’
She tapped yes and typed in a PIN code. She noticed me staring. “Oh, it’s my cat, Erwin. I have to leave her inside, can’t afford a pet sitter. He doesn’t mind,” she shrugged, waving her key around.
“And I can’t volunteer either, cause I’m allergic. What happens when he gets left inside?” I pointed at the door, but then realised what I meant and moved my finger towards the key.
“Nothing. Like it never happened, no time at all between key turns. Don’t you know that? You must be new in town.”
“I am. First day actually.”
“Then you’ll love it here! It’s quiet, we don’t have anyone too noisy now, cause last week, whew! Glad you missed that. Access is good, there’s a shop down the corner. Well, I gotta go, but I’ll see you around, neighbor!”
I slotted the key in and turned it.
I listened closely. Just a whoosh of air behind the door.
I opened the door and found a clean apartment. Small, but neat. Just like in the pictures. Perhaps a bit more pathetic. No windows, but light shone naturally from a skylight.
Out of curiosity I threw my pen in the air and swiftly shut the door and locked it.
Then I counted till ten. Is the pen still falling? There are only two possibilities: yes or no. I turned the key.
I heard the pen clatter on the floor, muffled by the hermetically sealed door, but it was definitely there.
I opened the door, and I caught the last second of it rolling on the corner.
What was it then? A stasis condo? And was it safe? It must be, right? City folks have been using it for years. Millions of them. It was the only way any city could grow these days.
I opened my carry on bag on the bed, spread a few of my stuff around. Toothbrush, socks, shirts.
I had nothing to do so I went down at the shop for some snacks.
I walked back at my apartment, and casually got up to first floor, third door on the right.
There was a key in.
Occupied, it said.
Someone had taken my slot. Had I miscounted? I checked the numbers on the corridor, nope, it was correct.
I couldn’t believe it, it felt so weird.
My neighbour showed up, carrying groceries. “Hey, you! What’s wrong? I’m Cindy, by the way, sorry, was in such a hurry earlier.”
“Someone took my slot.”
“No matter, silly. You have a slot leased anyway, that guarantees a spot in the building. Discard your silly notions of ownership. Think of it like a hotel room, you simply get inside the nearest available one, but the room is exactly as you left it. Awesome, right?”
“So what, I just go down the corridor and step back inside my house?”
“Okay,” I said, clearly not okay.
“It’s a mindscrew, I get it. But they’re doing that quantum thing where many rooms can occupy the same space. And even more mindscrewy, the rooms can show up wherever you want them. With the right foundation, of course, plumbing and graphene matrices. Just turn the key!”
“Just turn the key,” I mumbled.
“Didn’t they tell you that at the real estate agency?”
“They did, but it’s all too much for one day.”
“I guess. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. Goodnight!”
“Goodnight, Cindy. I’m Tom.”
She smiled and turned her key.
There was something that bothered me about my new neighbor. A tiny detail that nagged me and only surfaced to the top of my thoughts when I saw her again.
Cindy had no cat hair on her clothes.
Sure, you could rub it off with that sticky tape roller, but how perfect could that be? I knew that it was impossible to clean the cat hair off, especially from that wooly coat she sported. I notice these things.
I told myself no. Don’t take the step.
But I did.
I walked in front of her apartment’s door and cupped my ear.
The high-pitched voice was unmistakable. There was a boy inside. “What did you bring me, mommy?”
I bit my lips.
In Istanbul, it’s best that you never know your neighbors too well.