>BOTTLENECK, PART ONE

>Taisun Smith was reading a book, his head wedged up on a pillow, light swaying out from a long thin lamp above his bed. He blew a slow puff of air from his mouth, as he was wont to do in times of frustration. His eyes strained with the words; they seemed nothing more than a black-and-white steeplechase. He tried to make sense from the shapes—the sticks and bowls and dots thrown together—but he couldn’t. He let his gaze fall through the lines of print, sightline dropping like a pinball through the gaps, jostling and rolling until it clattered to a halt at the foot of the page, resting on the 2 printed in the bottom right hand corner. He stared at the fine weave of the paper, imagining the tiny patchwork of fibres that held it together. He looked over at his wall clock. Three minutes thirty—this was how long the book had retained his interest. A new record. He closed the book with a familiar snap, a noise that echoed like a laser off his bare white walls.

Taisun Smith lived in an accommodation complex known to the outside world as Ivory Towers Apartments. When the outside world first hears the name, it immediately conjures up visions of sleek, modern studios, filled to the polished rafters with genuine intelligentsia, imagines deep discussions on rooftops with vodka martinis, polished glass surfaces and private gyms. When the outside world finally does lay eyes on Ivory Towers Apartments, however, its premonitions are brutally shattered. The premonitions are so brutally shattered, in fact, that they never really recover; they end up in a dusty bar somewhere shouting at their shoes, wondering where it all went wrong.

Ivory Towers Apartments failed to live up to its name in a myriad of ways. The colour of the building, far from being ivory, had taken up residence somewhere between misty grey and mouse vomit (the latter being a hue with which residents were inevitably acquainted). There were no Towers to speak of either, just a large, oblong brick building that seemed to have a very strained relationship with the terms gravity and mortar. Right at the zenith of this architectural anomaly, Taisun Smith had made his home. Apartment 103.

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