Looking For Good Times

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The list of preferences seemed a bit daunting. Finding someone who met a long list of attributes seemed unlikely and sure enough, the algorithm only promised to find the closest match. On impulse, he typed in redhead, which he'd always thought of as an exotic and desirable trait, and left it at that.

There was a match in the club. Adrian entered the video chat function to talk with Caroline, whose bare, pale face was surrounded by a blue hooded robe. Wisps of red hair escaped the hood and framed her face.

"Hi, Adrian," she said, her voice over the speakers nearly drowned out by the music. "Have you been here before?"

Adrian put on the available headphones to supress the background noise.

"No, it's my first time. How about you?"

"I've been coming here for a while. You'll like it! It's exciting."

"Yes, it is exciting. I'm not sure about this music, though," said Adrian.

"Too much J-pop for you?" asked Caroline.

"I'm not a big fan. I don't even like the name," said Adrian.

"I know. They shouldn't name something after a planet no one lives on," laughed Caroline.

"Exactly! Just because an astronaut came back from Jupiter's moons and started a band is no way to name a musical trend."

Adrian found Caroline easy to talk to. They chatted about their jobs and a few more likes and dislikes. Caroline's job seemed far above his, she ran the finance department of a medium-sized company. Adrian was currently working in a face mask factory. It was Caroline who popped the question.

"So, Adrian, would you like to join me in a Joy Room?" Her voice was an enticing purr.

Adrian swallowed, and replied, "I'd be happy to meet with you."

"Go to one of the testing machines and we'll wait for our results," Caroline said. "See you soon!" She signed off the video chat.

Adrian left the booth to use the testing service provided by Dreamland. The first thing he noticed was the breeze from the ventilation systems on his naked face. On impulse, he took off his glasses and put them in a pocket. Then he lowered his hood and shook his head freely in the swirling air. Dancers whirled by as he made his way to a blood sample analyzer near the bar. It took him two tries to type in Caroline's name in the 'partner' field, as his fingers flew ahead of him. Then he stuck his little finger in the designated spot and the device drew a pinprick of his blood. Taking a deep breath, he wiped his suddenly damp forehead. All he had to do now was wait. It would take the system a few minutes before it sent them both the test results.

He used his drink ticket to order a whiskey at the bar. The bartender pulled a glass from the sterilizer and filled it with a Canadian rye for him. Adrian avidly inspected the faces of the people around him. You can see so much of what they're thinking, he reflected, watching a woman grimace after tasting her drink. She glanced over at him and he looked down quickly to avoid her eyes. He felt his cheeks get hot.

His handheld dinged. Grateful for the distraction, he fumbled it out and checked the screen. The results were in. He thumb-scrolled through Caroline's test numbers. She was clean. The app showed a message that they were approved to enter Joy Room number six. He swiped to a nav path showing its location. Downing his drink, he started following the indicated route through the booths towards a wall with multiple doors.

An arch decorated with 3D-printed, multi-coloured, cupids, nymphs, satyrs, vines and flowers marked the entrance to the walkway leading to the Joy Room doors. Adrian found number six and punched in the access code the app gave him. Swinging the door wide, he could see Caroline wasn't here yet. The room seemed to be completely coated in plastics, reminding him of the descriptions of rubber rooms in old-fashioned insane asylums. He shut the door behind him and looked around. The sudden cessation of the dance music from the club attested to the room's high level of soundproofing. There was a plastic table and two minimalist plastic chairs. A large plastic bladder, about three feet high, was made up as a bed with sheets, pillows and a bedspread. A large screen was mounted head-high opposite the bed and a shower stall was built into one wall. That was about it. All the walls, the ceiling, and the floor were coated in some kind of plastic coating, studded with periodic spray nozzles.

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