Matthias Devachan’s no angel, despite his name: he’s a Degenerate and an In-valid. But he believes that true heaven’s a place on Earth, and in heaven, love comes first. At least, he heard that once, in a song, but it was a long time ago. Too long ago to really remember. He’s walking toward the ticket barriers at Canary Wharf station on a cold Spring morning. The sun is leaking in, streaming down, bright white and glinting off the dilapidated steel escalators as he descends to the Underground platform. He feels the sun on his back like a kind hand, receding. Gorgeous models on huge plasma advertising boards look down upon him like golden goddesses. He returns their gaze, defiant. He’s excellent, he reminds himself. Train doors part and the Ables push him aside; it’s their right, but he toes a couple of them quietly in the shins and smiles, slipping into the carriage, leaning his back against the glass partition which divides him from them, and getting on with his morning pranayama. He breathes in for four counts. He’s got used to doing this behind his muffler. They can’t see his face. A small thing, but it makes him feel powerful. The fabric warms his skin. It’s made of saffronskene, from New China. Antiviral. He holds his breath for four, breathes out for four. Well worth the investment of a month’s benefits to protect his precious vocal chords. He fingers his seahorse necklace, glaring back at a prematurely ageing woman who’s staring at his scarf, red-eyed, mouth turned down. Leathery skin sags around her jowls. ‘Drain on society,’ she trills, turning to the absent-looking faces next to her. Matthias chides himself. No good, those negative thoughts; and he turns his attention inward, feeling his belly rise and fall, setting his intention for the day. To create. Create something. And to stay alive. He’s learned to ignore these overt taunts. If he reacts, they’ll cart him off to the Hospital. It doesn’t take much to provoke them. He tunes himself back into his practice, his beta waves flowing, his pulse slowing now. Matthias considers his options for this morning. He could go and do a full session of yoga, or he could visit his studio and write a song. He could sit on this train and go round and round on the Tube all damn day, and no-one could touch him for that. It’s not a crime, as such. He’s fortunate, in a blackly comic sort of way, he reminds himself, to have been designated an In-valid, while the Ables, the supposedly fit, get no remission from long working hours, day in, day out. Ridiculous. Unjust. He should feel sorry for them. But he can’t quite bring himself to do that. The train judders to a halt. Once off the carriage, Matthias shows his open palms to the station bot. He offers his necklace too, and the machine runs the usual scan to see if he’s tried taking it off. Of course, he hasn’t. There’s no point. He breathes deeply again, and the beta wave read-out shows he’s not agitated. He smiles as he pulls down his muffler to show his face. He’s got nothing to hide. He’s written only a few compositions this whole year, and he’s made no attempts to sing in public, so there’s nothing incriminating on his record since his last check-up. The exit barriers hiss as they slide apart. It’s even colder here, so he pulls his coat to and zips himself up. His studio door’s a few steps along a pedestrianised square. He looks up to check the configurations of today’s chemtrails. They look more or less the same as yesterday’s: sharp, white intersections, nothing fluffy, the slate-grey sky behind, and he reminds himself that straight lines don’t really exist in nature. He closes his eyes and visualises spirals. Spirals of life, spinning. Spinning in the sky, spinning in his chest. Spinning all along his spine. And for a moment, he feels he can rise above it: this world of utilitarians. He presses his muffler tighter around his jaw and edges it up to cover the whole of his nose.

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