The delivery man waits to descend onto the subway platform until its last train has departed for the night. This is a shrewd decision; many of his colleagues failed to take this precaution, and in turn, were dragged down into the world beneath the rails. He’s carrying precious cargo, after all: a backpack full of premium beverages ranging from black neon fizz to carbonated fire. Were he to perish on this errand, his ghost would be liable for the damages to company property, a debt which could take decades to repay.
The vending machine greets him in a language of dissonant humming and stale light. With delicate hands, he unlocks its front panel, finding that the majority of its wares have been purchased. Despite the emptiness of the streets, he now knows that someone, or something, is still purchasing their products. He unlocks a compartment behind a grid of buttons and withdraws the earnings that have been collected within. Much to his dismay, most of the coins within have already been drained of their value.
While digging around in its tender wires, something at the back of the machine’s display case catches his eye. There’s a single bottle full of radiant quicksilver, pulsing and droning in the shadows of the bottom row. He knows enough to know that it’s not one of their company products, but if he had also finished reading the employee handbook, he would have known that this contains the vending machine’s soul. Perhaps, then, he also would have thought twice about drinking its contents.