Chapter Thirty Three
All for one and thirteen for twelve.
Rock sugar sea salts in fifty-seven varieties were on the tip of my tongue that night as I entered the dank, loud, and claustrophobic space known as Hypocrite Wedding NightChapel. Bodies desperate, beautiful, and barely definably male or female loitered around posed like gargoyle statues in a cemetery. I spotted a girl with blue-blonde hair and cesspool eyes clinging to her glowing violet OxyBev and couldn't look away. She shimmered and vibrated as if plugged into a wall socket. On the inside of her wrist was a blue-glo tattoo that read "1908". The air was so thick and stifling—everyone else received their breaths through discreet plastic tubes attached to these small, attractive steel tanks affixed to their sides—they came in bright metallic colors and had glowing square buttons with rounded corners on them.
With some amount of difficulty, I made my way over to the cherry-blue blonde. Noticing my weakened condition, she gave me a few filtered breaths from her hot pink little tank. She had on a hard plastic shell outfit—almost see-through save for some strategically positioned glitter. I lowered my eyes and cleared my throat.
"Thanks for the oxygen. Do you know who's in charge around here? I need to speak with them immediately."
"In charge? No one. Not that I know of." She chewed mindlessly on her tube. "Here." She dropped two capsules into my hand. "These'll make you feel better."
I hadn't had Infatuate pills in so long that I partook in Ceremony with Cherry Blue right then and there. I awoke sometime later in the alley outside the club, with a headache like a quarter-ton brick and guilt that was twice as massive.
The Crystal Candy Caravan was in town on a high-lo expedition and I was their prime sales target. I would have sold my extraneous organs and re-mortgaged my greenhouse 70x over as all my neighbors had for just a packet or two. I would simply have to count my losses, jump on the nearest automoto-way and keep my eyes closed until it took me somewhere with colors I had never before seen and new lies which were all mine to show and tell.
I had lost people, so I bought what the Caravan was selling. The vapor candies were brilliant this time around, I glimpsed star-spangled images and brightly colored flesh, sweet and translucent like gummy bears—they made me see shades of grey in things that should have been black and white. Lights and candy and girls and boys, over and over to a pulsating beat. I surely must have been kidding myself to think that anything outside of a few kicks could be worthwhile. But tragically, the faces in the NightChapel tonight were ones I had seen before, the song one I knew by heart, and the drip-drip-crackle-spark! in my veins all too dully familiar, like ice water running through them or acupuncture needles stuck in me from the inside out—sharp edges piercing the surface and ready to sting anyone who comes within a 0.1 mile radius.
This world had been pre-programmed, the simulation one I knew well, yet somehow I had bypassed all pinnacle moments. Layers had melted and new ones had sprung up—a business knocked down and a new one built, a starlet shattered and defamed and a fresh one with rosy cheeks and lips, twinkling blue eyes and long, blonde, rivulets of hair ready to take her place. A world that thrived and survived on rebuilding, reconstructing, redesigning and reconfiguring, remodeling, rebranding, redistributing, redefining. No wonder I was stuck in an infinite loop. The process would never be complete.
I wandered around back alleys, behind dying nightclubs and overcrowded lovehouses, until the soft, purple day-indicator lights came up. The air was so thin, every inhalation a desperate gasp, a relay until the next one. I had on sixteen layers of wools and furs from the Ranchers and still couldn't get warm. It was a lo-power dawn, everything half-off—device screens went black the second half of every hour, neon signs had random letters dimmed out—GNRK LOESS. It was a great day for sales though. Shoes purses belts trousers cardigans mouthwash fabric softener stuffed animals ice cream panties pajamas watches necklaces sofas cigarettes vid downloads, everything half off.
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