Looking For Good Times

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The beggar sitting outside the entrance to Dreamland exhibited all the classic symptoms of Martian rot. Adrian seized the cloth of his robe with a gloved hand and pulled the skirt away from the beggar to make sure it was out of reach. The beggar was holding out a handscreen in a hand with stumps for fingers. His eyes were hooded with swollen lumps of eyebrows and the hole where his nose was missing leaked a green pus.

"Credits for the afflicted," garbled the beggar through a swollen throat.

Adrian peered down with narrowed eyes through his glasses. Adrian's eyeglasses were the latest goggle style from Cartier. He flicked the switch on the frame that stopped air circulation.

"For pity's sake, wear a mask", he told the beggar. It was rare to see anyone without a mask, but the ravaged face exposed by the beggar made it even more shocking.

"Credits to buy a mask," the beggar responded, thrusting his hand forward anew.

Adrian crossed the sidewalk and quickly approached the door to Dreamland. Maybe it was a mistake to come here, he thought. People could get infected with one of the many incurable diseases circulating in the city just by travelling to the club. Still, the possibility of sex with a live person kept him walking, just as it had tempted him out of his secure, sanitized apartment. But could a business based on sexual liaisons really live up to it's promise of a germ-free environment? He had a brief vision of spurting fluids hitting and then soaking into the cracks of a hardwood floor.

He stepped into the small alcove, lit up by a neon 'Dreamland' sign and several screens showing pictures of naked people, in front of a steel door with a camera and a peephole. Adrian took out his handscreen and hesitated. His eye wandered to one of the screens in the entranceway, which was displaying a video of a toned model engaged a strenuous session of nude exercise. He didn't have to stay if it looked unsafe, he reasoned. He found his ticket and held the image up to the camera. There was the sound of a bolt being thrown back and the door swung open.

"Welcome to Dreamland," said a female spectrum voice. Adrian stepped forward and the door auto-closed behind him. An attendant in scarlet-coloured robes, gloves and facemask stood in an enclosed booth in a small anteroom area. He could see blue eyes and blond eyebrows above the mask and below the headscarf, which gave him a bit of a thrill. The latest J-pop tune was playing in the background.

"Please blow into the mouthpiece," she said, steering a rubber tube, with a plastic mouthpiece attached, towards him through a hole in the plexiglass.

Adrian took hold of the offered hose.

"We need a sustained exhale until you hear the bell," the attendant said.

Adrian started blowing into the tube. He could see a picture of his own face on one of the monitors inside the booth.

"I see this is your first visit to Dreamland," said the attendant, looking at the same monitor. "I want to assure you that this facility has passed all safety inspections mandated by the federal health authorities and we have an impeccable non-infection record."

A bell rang and a green checkmark appeared on the screen next to Adrian's image. He let go of the breath tester and the woman pulled it back into the booth and used a pair of tongs to remove and discard the plastic mouthpiece.

"As a first-time visitor, all your health checks are free tonight and you're entitled to a drink on the house." She smiled at him. He could tell from her eyes. She passed a paper drink ticket and a pair of nose plugs to him through a hole in the plexiglass barrier. "The disinfecting spray is next. Please use the nose plugs while in the spray booth and avoid breathing through your mouth. Enjoy your visit to Dreamland." She pressed a button on her touchscreen and a door across the room slid open.

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