Meanwhile, Back In New York.

The streets were quiet as usual. With gasoline-powered vehicles reserved for military and government use, and dirigibles being very expensive, there was not as much noise as there used to be in New York City.

There was always the general background noise of the city, though. When you have 1 billion people living in close proximity, there is noise. There is the noise of footsteps on city sidewalks, and the noise of people arguing through thin walls, and the noise of dinner plates clattering as they are washed, and the noise of children playing somewhere and the noise of lovers loving and the noise of 1 billion lives being led, each in their own way. That noise was always present.

One of those 1 billion people came walking out of an alleyway, pulling up his pants a little and adjusting them. He glanced around and then shook his head, as though thinking he should have glanced around before leaving the alley, or maybe as though he was thinking that he should have finished pulling up his pants before leaving the alley. But he left, walking off to his right, secure in the knowledge that nobody he cared about saw him. His footsteps added a new sound to the background buzz; before walking away, he had been perfectly silent.

Another of those 1 billion people watched him from a little ways up the street, sitting on a doorstoop.

A third of those 1 billion people stood in the alleyway tucking some money into her bra cup and pulling her skirt back down. She did not watch the first man in this tableau leave; she did not even think about him any more than she thought about the other 15 men that night. It would be morning soon and she had a lot of money and just needed to make it through one more hour or so.

She saw the silhouette of the second of the people in this scene, at the alleyway entrance. She almost could not make out the shape of the man, it was so dark in this part of the city. 1 billion people lived in the city but none of them, it seemed, could be spared to fix the 6 broken street lights on this street.

Angelina -- the name of the woman with the bra strap and the money, the name of the prostitute who now looked at the shape in the alleyway-- could no longer be scared. She did not feel very much emotion at all, anymore.

If you live with an emotion for long enough, it no longer qualifies as an emotion. It becomes part of your existence. Similarly, if you live without an emotion long enough, you no longer note its absence.

Angelina had lived without love for a long time. She did not realize, anymore, that she was living without loving.

Angelina had lived in fear for so long that she had stopped noticing it. She was afraid all the time, and so, paradoxically, she was never afraid. Her level of fear was constant and therefore no longer alerted her when it was necessary.

"Come on over," she said, and shrugged back out of her bra so that her breasts were free. Men always wanted the breasts free. "It's seventy."

The man moved closer. Angelina should have feared him but she did not. He was tall and dark and muscular.

"Let's get you ready," she said, and reached down his pants. She looked up at him in surprise.

The man hit her over the head and she went unconscious. She should have been afraid before that. When she woke, she would, finally, feel fear again.

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