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Alejandre winced in pain as she peered at her now scraped elbows, remaining on the city floor of Monterrey in the rain, shocked from slipping. She looked up into the gloomy, starless, dark gray night sky, making Alejandre feel more low as she was now soaked, her long, dark castaño colored hair drenched in rain water, dirt sprinkled onto the ends of her hair. How did she fall? At this point, she can’t even recall. She was so caught up in reflecting her imperfections that had tainted what was supposed to be an ‘uninterrupted day’, she hadn’t been paying attention to how much slower she should’ve been walking.

Sighing heavily, Alejandre picked herself back up, adjusted her mask so that it covered her nose and mouth correctly, and continued walking as if nothing happened, her embarrassment towering over her, taunting her.

The streets were full of people tonight, like any other. Most of the population lived in the bigger cities of Mexico, being Guadalajara, Monterrey, and the City of Mexico. Even though it was typically normal to see people roaming the streets, some idled, using their digital holograms to check the weather or finish documents from their own work, others attending to their designated locations while wearing their own electric protective masks, avoiding the toxins in the air, Alejandre felt intimidated as she walked by. She had no reason to be scared, though. In Mexico, hospitality is a very important element in their daily culture. Most are generous; unannounced visits to one’s home, gifts being very important on a special occasion, body language, generosity, and being helpful. All of these things should be reassuring to Alejandre. But it wasn’t. She felt scared around people.

She suddenly cringed at the thought. Scared? That’s a bit silly, more like stupid. Shaking off the feeling of embarrassment, she had another sudden thought. She should be worrying about the much bigger problems that have been overtaking the country recently: pollution, and the concerning advancements in technology.

Earlier today at her work, Alejandre had been assigned to look into those two topics. Sometimes she regretted choosing to be a news writer at her local virtual newspaper. Her rough draft of research had been due today, and when she handed in her progress, her boss was not happy. Apparently, she needed to look “deeper into the iceberg”. It wasn’t her fault though, right? Her resources had been cut short when she traveled to a nearby rancho in the country to measure how much pollution there was in rural areas compared to the cities. The internet was not an easy thing to access in the countryside of Mexico because of the great costs, and hasn’t been for a long time. The only thing Alejandre could do was take physical notes.

She didn’t completely understand why she was being given the easy work. However, in the back of her mind, she knew that she just didn’t impress her boss. But it didn’t matter anymore, the earth being poisoned was much more of a major issue than her career and herself.

By 2031, 67% of Mexico was estimated to be contaminated. What was the point of finishing a meaningless paper if the world was slowly ending? Light pollution in Monterrey was already severe enough. Looking at the white, almost blinding LEDS that illuminated most of the buildings, Alejandre realized something: if you were to look at two images of Mexico, one being of the mountains that covered most of Mexico, the other being the futuristic light powered city of Monterrey, you would never even guess that the two photos were from the same country.

Alejandre was suddenly pulled from her ‘mind-rant’ thoughts, as she noticed where she was, almost entering a random mercado—a market—that was hidden on an unknown street. How long has she been mindlessly walking around the city for? Alejandre didn’t care about the question anymore, only wanting to buy food, remembering how hungry she felt as she put a hand to her stomach. She hadn’t been able to eat at all because of her draining work day.

“Que tengas un buen día,” the cashier said automatically after Alejandre paid, with no enthusiasm, no energy, nothing. The lack of humanness in this person made Alejandre internally scream. She felt like a ticking time bomb that was about to go off. Was this guy a robot?

“Igualmente,” she mumbled, looking down at her black boots, feeling a bit of tension and awkwardness from the loudening, buzzing silence. She looked at the man for a second, making a remark in her head about the look in the man’s lifeless eyes before leaving the store.

Now taking an electric bus back to Alejandre’s street, she searched her bags of bought foods, clarifying that she didn’t forget anything at the mercado. She took out a concha and began to peck at the bread, eating in silence. Conchas were one of the many staple foods in Mexico, of course though, it would be much better to choose the healthier options, like corn, arroz, tortillas, or frijoles. But anything is heavenly from the power of artificial sugar for Alejandre. She didn’t have time to make home cooked meals with the tormenting schedule that she had to deal with.

Once she arrived on her street, Alejandre wiped her mouth sprinkled with pink sugar, put on her mask, grabbed her things, and got off the bus. She trudged through the dimly lit road, and finally reached her small home.

She was about to open the door, but was stopped by something hitting against her foot as she stepped closer to the door. She glanced below herself. A package.. with a stamp that was clearly fresh and new, and that read, “Gobierno de México,” in carmine red print.

“Is this some kind of joke?” Alejandre whispered to herself. If it was, then it could not be an innocent one.