He first noticed the salient features of the landscape, completely missing the picture presented by the cornucopia of imagery that was being used to sell him on this newest technological marvel that was about to alter life as we knew it…or at least that’s what the sales pitch read. This ad had gone old-school and had dug up an honest to goodness real picture of a landscape, not the pixel generated stuff of a techs imagination. It was a rolling green hill with a cabin on the top and a back drop of some famous mountain he did not know. Looking up from his pad the steel grey mass of concrete stretched into the distance unbroken and bearing the grim pitted scars of decades of mass migrations running up against the impervious wall that led to the promised freedoms that the pads always existed once your passport was stamped and you were deemed clean enough to travel there. The line ups to the processing stations wound long and snakeskin back towards the rail station that was busy disengaging another batch of wide eyed refugees for the camp that stretched North and South of the processing center and through the distance until it dropped into what was once a large fertile valley but was now just a mass of shanty where the world’s detritus washed up against the wall in an ebb and flow of choking humanity. The average median age of a denizen of the town was 18.6. The average life expectancy was 35.4 and the average survival time was 12 months. The mass graves were the great compost heaps on the other side of the valley. No soil to bury them so they were mixed in woodchippers with other organics then spread out over the concrete in a large square field formation and the decomposition was accelerated. No one knew what happened to the compost. It was bagged and shipped in a never ending convoy of trucks that you could see but never get close enough to make out any details. The stench, however, was a poignant reminder of what lay beyond the outer boundary of the camp. This was the end of the world and the end of all hope for any who washed up on its shores, still alive through the apathetic morals of a system that did not wish to pull the trigger itself but would never stoop to lessening what resources it had in order to balance out the needs of the many with the wealth of the relatively few who remained. At least that’s what the propaganda would have you believe. Sanji had never seen anyone from the other side of the wall and the mechanical clockwork of the entrenched system was entirely automated. As far as his young brain had been able to process his situation there was no one left except those in the camp and machines were cleaning them up piecemeal while concrete stretched from horizon to horizon and the stench of death and human waste permeated every breath taken. Today was the day for Sanji. Today was the day he got what he had been dreaming of. Today was the day that the concrete gave way and his reward for survival came due. Today was the day he saw the field full of wheat with his cabin on top of the hill that looked over a lake and a cast expanse of mountains. Today he beat back the machines of death that surrounded every nook and cranny of his existence. After a tear of study and at the mature adult age of 17 Sanji was going to test himself beyond any level achieved by any he knew of in this human constructed wasteland. First off, though, he had to meet with the crazy lady who lived above him and took half of his meager gleaning that left his stomach in a painful knot each day. Sanji did not know the term for what he was about to do but if he had known he would still be full of the shaking fears that had convulsed him for days. He did not know anything about property rights, tenants rights or even ownership for that matter. Would it have calmed him to know he was doing nothing different from any one else in the world of privilege that existed in his minds eye. No, it would not have calmed him to know that even the veneer of honest trade and barter that was the crux of their relationship was a complete fallacy. That she was no landlord at all. Had no rights over his shanty, had no special rights at all. No, nothing would make him shake this black shaking fear and nausea that was gripping him. He was not thinking about any of it. He was thinking that he was about to kill the old crazy lady he had been feeding this past year. With no formal education, only basic literacy, and a lifetime on his own, Sanji did not even grasp the concept. He viewed her as the least violent person who he had ever been in servitude before. The thought of individual rights and freedoms did not even enter into his thought processes. Those concepts were as alien as the concrete wasteland that he lived in. They shared a shanty with two tiny floors and a communal slop bucket for waste. There was no kitchen, or even space to prepare a meal for that matter, just one concrete floor and six feet above that a tin one. Surrounded by four more sheets of tin standing sloped together to make up four walls. The entrance was through an overhang on one of the four sheets. It would fit the term exactly, “house of cards" but Sanji did not know what cards were and it was a far cry better than sleeping in an alleyway between the shanties that lined the slums open spaces and built up and together in ever tightening circles until there was no space left and there was no such thing as privacy in this place where a half a million souls could be crammed into the spaces between the concrete where the remnants of humanity scurried and hid from view like a nest of parasites hidden in the walls of your home. It was the most personal space he had ever had in his living memory and had given rise to thoughts that there were better things in this world to be had besides tough cubes of soy product to eat and an early death to look forward too.