Hopeful Encounter

The sun was setting. Far to the east, threatening black clouds arose
from the fumes of pollution from the several smoke stacks towering over the
city. The streets were pock marked and dented with the recent shower of
acid rain. Hot boiling steam from the sewers made the temperature of day
much hotter than it really was. Just outside the borders of the city is a
lake covered with muck and crude oil spills. Death and despair floated
aimlessly on the surface of the unhospitable body of water. Corpses of dead
fish, seagulls... bobbed just under the rim of the black slime. The black
slime sensing fresh prey, extended it\'s corrupt and revolting tendrils
farther...until it caught another unsuspecting victim, choking and
engulfing, destroying, leaving just another emtpy shell behind, devoid of
any life.

Night set in, the stars were obscured by thick blankets of smoke. The
day was done. Stores got ready to lock up and street lights were turned on
to aid the bread winners, so they may travel safely. Few were fortunate
enough to own automobiles so they could avoid the cold dangerous streets
and dark alleyways. Most shops were already abandoned, finished for the
day. Yet few doors were still open, desperate for any last minute
customers. One such shopkeeper was Phil Anderson. Anderson had worked as
a pharmacist for most of his life. At forty, he had little to show for.

The pollution that caused the gradual decay of the city had had negative
effects on business, as well as the environment. Phil, though by all means
not an old man, showed signs of premature aging. His skin was pale and
dry, wrinkled by the everyday punishment of the deteriorating sorroundings.

Few strands of grayish white hair lined his almost bald, dandruff infested
scalp. Looking at Phil with his characteristic limp, slouched posture and
bulging belly one might think him an extremely unathletic person. But then
again it was not entirely his fault. His eyes were red and bloodshot, the
glasses he wore only made these features more obvious.

With shaking skinny hands, Phil slowly put away the last of the items
on top of the counter. Finally done, he flicked off the lights and
rummaged through his pockets for his keys. Looking one last time to make
sure the shop was in order, Phil locked up the store and left. He failed t
o notice a dark shadow spying on him as he counted the bills he had earned
today, and put it away into his black leather wallet. The tall dark figure
studied the pharmacist a while longer before trailing him. The narrow
dirty street smelled of weeks old garbage and animal wastes. Smog was
still thick in the air causing him to cough repeatedly. He stopped for a
moment to catch his breath. Remembering his air filter in his pocket, Phil
gingerly took it out and put it on. Feeling much better Phil continued
down the street, heaving a sigh of relief.

He headed towards home, but soon remembering that he always stops by
the Charleton Bar for a drink or two, Phil abruptly changed direction.

Sounds of laughter and grumbling reached his ears as Phil pushed open the
doors of the Charleton.

The Charlton is located at Bradleys street, just a couple of blocks
away from Phil\'s Pharmacy. Often did Phil come here to unload and forget
his problems. This old bar is small and a little rundown but by no means
deserted. Though built with concrete, The Charleton was wooden inside. It
was dimly lit by old-fashioned lanterns placed along the walls, that gave
it an atmosphere of relaxation. At least the problems of the world can be
temporarily forgotten in here, drowned out in a pint of beer. A low
slanted ceiling hung over head. Years of exposure to acid rain caused the
wood to decay. Wood fillings was occasionally used to patch up the holes.

Although the variety of alchoholic beverages served here were not abundent,
the ones they did have were quite popular. Their Spinner and Geinis for
example, were among the house favorites. Few scattered chairs and tables
were spread around the room in no apparent order. Most were occupied. A
middle aged couple sat in the middle of the room talking softly amongst
themselves, minding their own business. Far in the shadows of the corner
was a young lad, who it seemed to Phil, was too Young to have legally
entered the bar. Clutched in his hands was the weaker of the drinks that
the bar offered. Yet