Category Archives: Novel

Aesthesia: Chapter 8 (2)

11:33 Thursday 6th October 2005, Maya

Matt was looking pretty smug as he showed me round our big store. The place actually looked like a bookies, with TV screens, booking slips, a counter, the works. It was undeniably an impressive piece of work. Much more my style than Art Deco.

‘We get the TV feed in here showing the live race. Obviously we can’t fix the races, they’re legit. Riley’s set up here, holds up the pictures until the end of the race,’ Matt said pointing to a small black box, ‘when we’ve got a winner, we’ll give it to you. You’ve got three minutes to put a bet on before we start feeding it through the front. As far as anyone is concerned, they’re watching the race live.’

‘Three minutes isn’t very long,’ I thought out loud.

‘You slow up the pictures any more, our man might smell a rat. Sorry Maya, it’ll have to do,’ Matt said, continuing to admire his own work. ‘The main area is fully functioning. Riley’s tapped into a street light for electricity, re-routed mains and water for the toilets.’

‘Perfect,’ I said. ‘I have twenty grifters coming in as punters. So, I guess we’re ready to go, the client will be here in a few hours.’

This con was going to be mathematically challenging with our current funds. We had just over £90,000 capital which meant our client wouldn’t be able to take a high stakes bet, as it would wipe us out. We were ready to feed him the convincer – the trick that actually works, before we pull the con. It was simple enough, Riley had already told him he had a non-fail tip system predicting the winners. However, most bookies don’t let you place high bets in the region of tens of thousands minutes before the race without raising suspicion. That was where our big store came in. Riley had told Albert he knew of a private bookies that the syndicates used and that he was a member of. He had given him the usual sell to convince him to place a bet with our big store, saying it was for strictly high rollers, cash only and they would take bets up to half a million without batting an eyelid. The problem was, we only had a three minute window to place the bet. I would call Riley with the winners name as soon as the race finished. Riley would tell the client that I was escorting his boss, and had somehow managed to get the next winners name from him. Riley was going to put down £15,500, which the client would likely follow.  At a 2-to-1 winner on a £31,000 bet we would pay out a total of £93,000 (including the original stake) to prove the system works and convince the client to bet more money next time. I know what you’re thinking, if the client walks off with his half of the ‘winnings’ we’ve made a loss. But here’s the thing, clients never walk off. They’re greedy and always want more. That’s why the long con works.

As soon as the client had collected the winnings I joined Riley (or John) and Albert at the big store.

‘There she is,’ Riley said as I walked in, ‘£93,000 doll. Isn’t that right Albert!’

‘You wouldn’t believe what I had to do, to get that horse’s name,’ I said.

‘Well, maybe you could show me some time,’ Albert winked. ‘Why don’t we place one or two more bets.’

‘No, we agreed one race a day. We don’t want to raise suspicion,’ Riley said looking at me. We were flush and could not afford for Albert to win any more.

‘That was ridiculously easy,’ Albert said, loping like a greedy child who had just consumed the cookie jar.

‘Listen, the thing is if we want to make real money we need to put on one big bet while Kate’s still on the inside,’ Riley said, laying the groundwork for a big bet, where we would take the client for a few hundred thousand.

‘There’s no rush, surely?’ Albert rhetorically asked.

‘What if he calls the agency and asks for another girl?’ I said, trying to guide the client.

‘He’d be completely off his rocker to let you go,’ Albert answered, putting his chubby arm around my waist, with his hand creeping up a little too high.

‘Kate’s right,’ Riley added. ‘It’s not worth the risk. Besides, when we’ve made a pound or two, you lovebirds can take an extended break together? Just as promised, Albert.’

’So we can,’ Albert answered, tightening his grip. This was one of the downsides to playing the con, on occasion you would have to allow unattractive, balding fifty-something year old men to drool all over you.

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Aesthesia: Chapter 8 (1)

19:03 Wednesday 5th October 2005, Maya

glq kuy kro nw iksi kolo fro nw

Translation: do right and fear no-one

Old Punjabi saying

I could’t fault Matt’s commitment to the job, he had left before six this morning to rally the team and get the big store up and running. I parked up outside. The building was already looking much improved compared to the estate agent brochures. As I closed the door on the car I had ‘borrowed’ for the day, I noticed several workers who were carrying planks of wood into the store.

‘Oi! Watch it! That’s a loan and needs to stay in good nick,’ Matt was shouting, as one of his workforce almost knocked over a TV screen.

‘How’s it going?’ I asked.

‘The decoration is pretty much done. Hardware might take a little longer,’ Matt answered, ‘so we’re going for a few furlong races?’

‘It’s a nice setup. Race should be over in a minute to a minute and a half.’

‘I know I’ve been out of the game for a while, but I remember how long a furlong race lasts,’ Matt sarcastically said.

‘I know, just teasing’, I smiled. ‘So you got enough supplies to finish this place?’

‘You’ll know when I haven’t. Shouldn’t you be getting ready for the curtain roll?’ Matt asked barely waiting for an answer. ‘Would you guys watch it!’ he yelled, walking toward the same young man, who had just knocked another screen. I took the cue to leave.

I picked up Riley and Walter and we made our way to the first performance for our client. This was the clincher, we had him hooked but needed to reel him in for the magic to work.

‘You sure this is the place Walter?’ I asked as we drove up to a five star hotel.

‘Quite sure, sugar. The valet may not want to park this fine specimen you’re driving without a key.’

‘Who said I don’t have a key?’ I asked.

‘Really, since when do you use keys? Where exactly did you ‘borrow’ this car from?’ Riley asked.

‘Right here,’ I answered pulling into the hotel as the valet looked on. ‘Some rich kid this morning mistook me for a parking attendant and threw her keys at me. It seemed rude not to accept,’ I quipped exiting the car. ‘Thanks doll and remember to take it easy on the clutch,’ I told the parking attendant as I handed him the keys.

The social mixer Walter had been invited to was in a stunning suite supporting a clear vaulted roof and a decadent Art Deco.

‘Derek, so glad you could make it,’ said a white haired aristocrat type, who I assumed Walter had met at his Gentleman’s club.

‘Lovely to see you again Peter. This is my nephew John and his young friend, Kate,’ Walter gushed. Walter was like very few con artists, in that he was actually an artist. Watching him run an con was like watching Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa.

‘Come in, I’ll fix you some drinks. Albert’s in the lounge,’ directed Peter, handing us each a glass of champagne. Not to look to keen to meet our client, we waited for him to approach us.

‘Ahh, I thought that was you old boy. Welcome Derek,’ Albert said coming over and patting Walter on the back.

‘John, nice to see you again,’ Albert said, moving his eyes from Riley toward me, ‘and who is this vision?’

‘Good to see you too sir. This is Kate,’ Riley answered putting his arm around my waist.

‘I’m delighted to make your acquaintance,’ Albert drooled, leaning forward to kiss my hand. ‘Would you mind if I stole this bright young man, my dear?’

‘Be my guest,’ I answered.

Albert led Riley through the crowded room onto the mezzanine. They were chatting for a good twenty minutes and by the looks of things Albert was trying to get information from Riley.

‘That’s what I like to see. A client who does all the hard work himself,’  I said to Walter, pouring another glass of champagne.

Walter smiled.

For magic to work, the spell you cast has to be perfect. Our spell had worked and the veil of illusion cast. Riley had fed Albert a story claiming he worked for a syndicate company that had teamed up with five other syndicates during the last year. As a result, the company now owned all the runners in a single race, which meant they were able to determine which horses would win certain races, before the race started. With a good spell you have to appeal to your audience, tap into their desires. Riley had claimed he was too junior to get the information, although he was seeing a high class escort, Kate (me), who was escorting his boss and overheard key information regarding the winner for the next race. From there is was simple math, if you put £1000 on a 12-to-1 you get back £12,000 (which Riley claimed he had from the race that Golden Nugget had won). But if you put down £10,000, you get £120,000. Our client was under our spell and ready to front up some cash.

.

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Aesthesia: Chapter 5 (2)

20:30 Friday 30th September 2005, Maya

 

Pulling a rabbit out of the hat isn’t as easy as it appears, trust me. First you have to find the right kind of hat. Rabbits are reasonably interchangeable, and so it is with marks. Anyone can be conned, but the scenario has to be just right. Finding the right hook, is the make or break point. As with any performance, the trick is in the preparation. 

Sometimes the magician has to take a leap and learn to play with the big boys, the heavy weights to ever be taken seriously. Problem is, you never know if you’re punching above your weight until you’re crushed. The next client was a piece of work – a newspaper editor who was notorious amongst the industry for hacking personal e-mail accounts and mobile phones to eavesdrop of conversations. Having evaded numerous law suits for such hacking activities she seemed like the perfect mark. Problem was, if we got caught our life as con artists would be over. When conning a mark, anonymity is your best friend and if our pictures ended up on the front page of her paper we could wave goodbye to this life. As I finished the pitch, I could see the general lack of confidence in the plan.

‘Charlie O’Rooke? You’re kidding right?’ Matt asked staring at the picture that had remained on the projector, ‘If our pictures end up in the Daily News we’re done for.’

‘You know it’s not like me to agree with Jimmy Cricket over here,’ Riley answered gesturing toward Matt, ’but selling her a story that the Royal Family are impostors. Seriously? Haven’t the conspiracy theorists flogged that tale enough? Besides she’s one smart bitch, whose in with the politicians, really think she’ll jeopardise her golden girl position?’

‘I think greed is a powerful motivator, of which she has bucket loads. I don’t see why she wouldn’t go for the scoop of the century. Besides, it’s just a rough plan at the moment, obviously it needs polishing up,’ I defensively answered. 

‘Perhaps Maya just needs time to iron out the creases. The mark, Charlie O’Rooke, is undoubtedly a challenge,’ Walter soothingly spoke. ‘Conning your average Joe Bloggs out of his only tuppence is easy work, which even the average street crook can do. Conning a couple of hundred thousand from a greedy and corrupt editor, now that’s hard work.’

‘Dimples, usually you can sell me anything,’ Riley paused staring at me, ‘but it feels like you’re selling me a seat in the slammer next to big brother and that’s just not happening. Besides I’m just too pretty for jail, I’d never get any sleep.’

As always, Riley had managed to diffuse the tension. That didn’t help with the plan, it just left me back at the drawing board. The con would have to break from our usual pattern of roping the mark to the inside man if we had any chance of conning her.

‘Walter, didn’t you say you had a mark? Just thinking, this place isn’t cheap and we’ll need rent soon,’ Matt pragmatically said. 

‘I have been befriending a mark, Albert Smithe, who I met a few weeks ago. He’s a frequent attender at the gentleman’s club, whose earned himself quite a reputation. Recently left his employment at South West Rail with a million pound settlement and a golden handshake, after steadily increasing train fares, avoiding repair works and having mishandled company finances has lost thousands of workers pension schemes. Not that it bothers him, he feels the public, or ‘plebs’ as he calls them, deserve everything they get’ Walter said despisingly.

‘Sounds like he’s a lovely old chap,’ I sarcastically commented, ‘so what’s our in?’ 

‘Well he has two dirty little secrets he’s managed to keep out of the press. Prostitutes..’

‘Looks like you’re up, dimples. At least we don’t have to argue about whose going to play the inside, although I might come along to watch,’ Riley teased, sitting forward.

‘No, not another prostitute picture scam, where we’re threatening to tell the wife,’ I protested. 

‘Don’t worry dear, it was actually his second vice that caught my attention. He has a hankering for the gee-gees. Horses, only problem for him is he doesn’t have much talent in predicting the winners’  Walter smirked, turning to look toward Matt. 

‘Before you guys start pitching ideas, I should say that predicting the winner takes months of research and mathematical modelling of over 80 variables. I haven’t been keeping tabs on the races recently, given that bookies shut their doors if they just see me walking past,’ Matt pre-emtively said, ‘I have no better a chance of predicting the winner at the moment than the next person.’

’Well there’s nothing like the golden oldies. We could work the wire?’ Riley suggested. 

‘The wire?’ I asked, ‘only problem nobody really relies on telegrams anymore to get the results across the country, well not since the advent of TV. Wire would only work if we could show we knew the results before they were broadcast.’

‘The principle still  holds – no-one watches the races live. We just use video link instead of telegram,’ Riley reasoned. 

‘I suppose,’ I answered. The wire is not a con that I had worked before, although The Sting did have a certain appeal (other than Paul Newman). ‘It’s doable, but it’ll need work. Big store?’

Riley nodded. 

‘Walter, shall we reel him in?’ I asked. 

‘Of course dear. He’s ready to go,’ Walter paused, ‘Monday mornings he is usually at the gentleman’s club. We can rope him in there.’

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Aesthesia: Chapter 5 (1)

min jiqy jgu jiqu

(Translation: conquer your mind and conquer the World)

Old Punjabi saying

10:01 Friday 30th September 2005, Maya

I was crouching on the grit-covered floor. I began to feel the trickle of blood on my forehead. Worse were the small stones that cut into my palms like shards of glass. I rocked backwards to rest on my legs and then slowly rose to my feet. There was absolute desolation. Peering through the thick strand of hair that covered my face, I could barely take in the previously grand Primrose Hill that now was laden in thick black smog. There were sparks of igniting flames covering the floor. As I walked a few hundred yards I looked around at the consummate destruction and the many walking wounded. Stumbling forward I tripped over a shoe with flesh still in it. I closed my eyes and held my breath – this wasn’t real, this couldn’t be real. With a deep breath in, I opened my eyes and ended the nightmare. I was in my bed, awake.

The exact details of the night that had passed were blurry at best. Mixing potions is never a good idea, especially when the concoction created is more than 70% alcohol. I freshened up and made my way down to the hotel restaurant. The only brew I know to cure less than five hours sleep is an extra shot of morning opium. I took a seat in the overcrowded restaurant, sipped my latte and poured over my laptop. My brain was taking a little longer than usual to kick into gear this morning. After a good ten minutes of vigorous typing, I eventually managed to hack into the e-mail account of our next client. The magic words tend not to come to me as easily as they do to Riley.

‘Morning, sugar. Usually you’re sneaking in first thing in the morning. Sneaking out –now that’s a new trick,’ Walter calmly spoke, as he sat at my table. Walter proved that con artists come in all shapes and sizes – with his oiled white hair, sharp suit and waistcoat you would more easily believe him to be a company director than the man who cons the director.

‘Good to mix things up every now and then,’ I replied, glimpsing up from laptop screen.

‘Dare I ask what time you all came in this morning?’ Walter asked.

‘Past five I think. It all got a bit crazy. You cleaned up alright at the poker game.’

‘We all need our vices to make life bearable. I take it those aren’t you’re e-mails that you’re so intently scanning?’ he asked.

‘What can I say. I found a new client last night,’ I replied, strangely proud that my alcohol addled mind had managed to achieve something.

‘Sugar, you have to learn to take life easy sometimes. Take some time off. Learn to see people as more than potential next mark,’ Walter replied.

‘Maybe you’re right,’ I answered, closing my laptop and setting my phone to bluesnarf instead.

‘Always working, right?’ Walter sarcastically asked, not having missed the prestidigitation. It was difficult to get anything passed him.

‘I need another cup of coffee. Can I get you anything?’ I asked. My phone needed time to hijack bluetooth enabled phones and dial out a high rate call to my own company from the hijacked phone. The overcrowded restaurant provided a goldmine of bluetooth enabled phones – in thirty minutes I could easily make a couple of hundred quid. That gave me plenty of time for breakfast.

‘I’ve already ordered you another coffee and a bacon butty. The waiter will bring it over as soon as it’s ready,’ Walter said smugly.

I sometimes forget how well Walter knows me. He’s certainly spent more time with me than my father ever wanted to. Then he lost his chance – alcoholic wife-beater who walked out on my mum, leaving a string debts behind. Showed up some years later to see mum, screaming and shouting in the middle of the night. Wanted to teach her a lesson for believing she could make it in this world without him. Things got nasty and he ended up six feet under. I can barely even remember what he looks like.

‘You ever wonder how you ended up here?’ I asked.

‘Somedays. It’s best to avoid the big questions – they have a way of messing with your head.’

‘How do you do it? How do you stay sane?’ I questioned, feeling the weight of my past heavy on my shoulders.

‘It’s a skill. Knowing when to lie and when to tell the truth,’ he answered with a sigh.

‘Guess you’re not talking about the marks?’

‘Marks are easy. It’s your head you have to learn to con. At night you go to bed, knowing this isn’t a life you would choose,’ he said softly.

‘The lie’s the next morning?’ I pre-emptively asked.

‘Always – you wake believing the new sun can change everything. Hope you can re-claim what you lost, undo your mistakes,’ he paused, ‘and when the night comes bringing the truth back with it, you’re playing poker with a glass of single malt in your hand knowing you achieved something truly remarkable. You made it through another day.’

‘And if you’re really lucky you’re drawing live.’

‘Sugar, winning the game has nothing to do with luck,’ Walter smiled, ’your winning streak comes from what’s up your sleeve’. He winked, interrupted by the waiter.

Silence fell as we both tucked into our breakfast. The silence, like the food, didn’t last long. Walter had asked the waiter to bring over the latest copy of Cosmo and a classic car mag, which we reviewed over a cup of coffee.

‘Morning guys. Hey pretty girl, I’d put that away,’ said a friendly voice. Riley had joined the table, ‘Matt’s just behind me and you know he’ll give us the speech about morality and stealing, and my head really can’t take it.’

‘Awww, did we drink too much last night? While you guys were drinking, I was working and might have a lead,’ I replied disconnecting my phone, seeing Matt walking toward the table.

‘Walter looked like you did ok at that game,’ Riley said, changing the subject.

‘Last night was rough,’ Matt grunted joining Riley’s orchestra of self-pity, ‘are you actually cohesively reading anything?’ he asked gesturing at the magazine and pecking me on the cheek.

‘Yeah, it’s a fairly good read. You should try it some time, maybe when you’re less hungover,’ I recommended.

‘I believe a good old British fry up is called for,’ Walter advised, ‘might help with that pounding headache. The only other cure I know is good old hair of the dog.’

‘More alcohol is definitely the last thing that I need! Fry up it is then,’ Matt deduced.

‘Good plan, Matt when you up there could you order me a fry up’ Riley instructed.

‘Not your slave and the waiter’s on his way,’ Matt retorted.

We ordered our second round. We must have been in the restaurant for at least a few more hours, recounting the events of the night before. As the hours passed my mind slowly regained it’s momentum. Riley, as always, bragged about his latest conquest, to which Matt scoffed. Walter continued to peruse his car mag, followed by the morning paper, intermittently intervening to mediate a brewing argument. This may not be the perfect life, but it wasn’t bad.

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Aesthesia: Chapter 4 (2)

08.13 1st October

The silence was deafening. There were questions, so many questions that Matt needed to ask. Why was Maya covered in blood? What had happened? Why was she knocking on his door? There’d been no sign of her for years and today she appeared, as if by magic. They had exchanged pleasantries and were doing the polite British thing with a cup of tea.

‘You’ve done well for yourself Matt,’ Maya eventually said, breaking his thoughts mid-stream.

‘Well, it’s  not like I had much of a choice,’ Matt answered.

‘How’s Riley, Finn, Walter?’ Maya tentatively asked.

‘I’ve not see much of them since……. Well I guess I don’t need to tell you,’ Matt replied, feeling the anger wake up like a sleeping hound.

‘I’m sorry. I know I have no right to be here, but I’m in trouble.’

‘Covered head to toe in blood, course you are. I’m not in that business anymore Maya. I’ve cleaned up. I have a wife and we live like normal people. She doesn’t even know….’ Matt paused seeing the look of disgust on Maya’s face.

‘She doesn’t know? It’s who you are! If she doesn’t know, she doesn’t know you!’ Maya retorted, ‘we are the sum accumulation of our past experiences.’

‘Please keep your voice down. I’ve changed, we all changed after what happened. I’ve not seen you in years, I barely know you anymore,’ Matt said firmly.

‘Why’d you pick this house? Out of all the houses, why this one?’ Maya asked, catching Matt off guard.

‘It was for sale, we had the money. So we bought it,’ he plainly stated.

‘That so. Just that simple hey,’ Maya replied standing and walking around the breakfast bar. ‘Still, this house, you really don’t remember?’

Matt shrugged.

‘You haven’t changed. You’re living in a trophy of who you were! Nice try though, you almost had me fooled,’ Maya teased. ‘This house was your first long con. I brought you along for the ride, remember? You telling me you’ve forgotten conning old Gilly?’ Maya asked.

‘No, it’s….it’s not, it can’t be,’ Matt hesitantly answered as the reality hit him. It was the same house. The house they had conned back in 2005. Matt couldn’t believe how he could have missed it, but he had. ‘Easy mistake,’ he uttered after several minutes, ‘who’s after you? Disgruntled mark?’

‘I wish. Clients are easy to lose,’ Maya hesitated for a second, weighing up whether she should tell him the truth. ‘It’s the Freelancers.’

Matt stared, speechless. The Freelancers were a group of vigilantes. During the budget cuts, the organisation formed from voluntary helpers to aid the dwindling police force. Nowadays the police were buried in paperwork and had little time to patrol or uphold the law. The Freelancers had taken it upon themselves to ‘safeguard’ the streets. The vast majority of their members were psychotic sociopaths, with an inherent taste for blood. Remaining unpaid and protecting those in power, they seemed to be uncontrollable.

‘What did you do to piss them off?’ Matt whispered.

‘They have some crazy ideas. They know that we caused the instability and they don’t want it happening again.’

‘Ethan died, so it won’t happen again,’ Matt said, perplexed as to what the problem was.

‘He didn’t die Matt,’ Maya smiled, shaking her head.

Matt looked at her, going over the facts and what he knew with absolute certainty. Riley had seen Ethan die in the MRI scanner at the hospital.

‘Maya, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you to lose him,’ he said empathetically, ‘but Ethan did die.’

‘If he died, where’s his body?’ Maya asked defensively.

‘He wasn’t from our time. His b-body probably returned to his time,’ Matt stammered trying to make sense of past events.

‘We spent hardly any time together before the instability, right?’ Maya confirmed, to which Matt nodded. ‘Then explain this?’ Maya asked, taking a tatty photo from her jacket packet.

Matt studied the picture. It was taken in an old style photo booth. Maya and Ethan both had cheesy smiles and were holding a pretty toddler. There was no way this was taken before the instability, they wouldn’t have had time. Matt puzzled.

‘Nice try. Photoshop?’ Matt grinned uncertainly.

‘He’s alive. That’s our daughter, Akasha,’ Maya claimed.

For the first time in his life, Matt pitied her. Once at the top of her game, she really appeared to have lost it. Lost everything – the love of her life, the money and now her sanity. Even the mighty fall. He walked toward her and put his arm around her shoulders.

‘I’m not crazy,’ Maya intuitively responded, ‘it doesn’t matter if you believe me. He is alive and I have to work out a way to fix the instability. It’s the only way to save my family. The only thing I need from you is information – when I was in the coma you guys consulted with a Professor? A physics genius? I need his name.’

 

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Aesthesia: Chapter 4 (1)

07.32 1st October

There was nothing like the lure of a warm bed on a Saturday morning – there was no alarm ringing, no need to be anywhere. The only place you needed to be was bed. That was even more so when your dreams contained some very wet, scantily dressed brunettes covered in cherry flavoured jelly, promising to do things that may well land one in jail in several countries. There was a nudge on Matt’s shoulder and some mutterings that he was trying desperately to ignore. Just five more minutes and he was certain his day could start with some morning delight. The nudging now turned to tapping and the mutterings had manifested themselves as commands.

‘Mmmm, Matt. Mitzy’s at the door. It’s your turn this week,’ Abbey said, stroking Matt’s shin with her toes. If she wanted him to get out of bed faster that wasn’t the way to do it.

‘Couple more minutes,’ Matt moaned.

‘She’s been there for a while. They’ll just be more to clean up if you leave her.’

Matt knew Abbey was right and looking round he could no longer see the barely dressed brunettes. The moment had, as always, passed. He sat up, threw off the covers and dropped his feet to the floor. Abbey’s methodical serene rhythmic breathing made him feel the urge to lie back down. Under lashings of brown hair that covered the cream sheets he could see Abbey had fallen asleep. Looking at how deeply asleep she was it was remarkable she had managed to cohesively kick Matt out of bed. He put his slippers on and walked towards the panting on the other side of the door. No sooner had he opened it, did Mitzy start running in small circles ready for her walk. He stroked her warm head gliding down to her thick brown fur covering her body. She settled and sat outside the bedroom door while Matt went to the bathroom. If someone had told him five years ago he’d be married, wearing slippers and getting up at some God forsaken hour on Saturday to walk a chocolate brown Labrador called Mitzy, he would have laughed. It’s funny how life turns out.

Matt got dressed into baggy grey joggers with an oversized T-shirt, and was just having a quick swig of water before getting his trainers and a fleece. There was a knock at the door, and his mind instantly jumped to whether it was the alloys he’d been waiting for. It wasn’t even eight yet, so surely not. Mitzy was still running circles ready to go for a walk. He stroked her back, to try to calm her. Walking toward the door, it occurred to him it might be may be the homeless man from down the street who had recently taken to knocking on doors after finding that he was largely ignored if he sat stationary, or worse still a Jehovah’s witness, although both seemed hopefully unlikely at this time of the morning. The door was boarded up where the previous glass pane had sat, after some kids had managed to put a golf ball through it last week. Matt had wondered what on earth kids were doing playing golf, what had happened to the more normal sports like basketball or football. He supposed nowadays they preferred carrying golf clubs, as some sort of intimidation to passers-by. Given the state of recent events perhaps everyone should carry some sort of bats as protection or for hunting purposes. He had just picked up the keys, when the knock came again. There was something about it, something oddly familiar. It was almost déjà vu and yet in the same breadth couldn’t be further from déjà vu. Matt hesitated, he wasn’t sure why. He put the key in the door, unlocked it, and cautiously moved it open.

Seeing her stood on the other side of the door, Matt knew why the knock had sounded so familiar. The knock had her trademark impatience, although it lacked soul that only she knew how to add. She barely resembled the girl he remembered. She had lost her gloss, that had always seemed to act like a deflective shield to all that was wrong in the world. Her green eyes had lost their passion, their fire. Maya barely looked like her former self; in fact you may have been forgiven for truly believing her to be a different person. There were no words.  Feeling a mixture of anger and relief to see her, Matt stepped forward onto the cold slate step outside the front door and hugged her.

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Aesthesia: Chapter 3 (3)

07:00 Friday 6th February 2578,  Ethan

                       

 I jumped. There was music everywhere over which I could hear a woman’s voice requesting I got up and as I opened my eyes I saw a clock flashing above me. How do I make it stop? Of course, I thought while gliding my hand toward the black tile on the bedside table. The music stopped, and was instead replaced by a news report. Staring up I saw two reporters reading the news on the upper right of the four poster bed, while a diary cataloguing my schedule for the day appeared on the upper left corner. I sat up and found the projection on the ceiling of the four-poster glide down to remain at eye level. As I got out of bed I looked down to find the Visual had remained unchanged from the dark green shirt and jeans from the night before.

Feeling oddly less alone, I freshened up and washed my face in the fountain of water that was cascading from the tiles, after which I was just about to leave the bathroom but halted having heard a faint clicking. I turned and noticed two small drawers that had appeared from the tiles and seemed to be suspended in mid-air above the sink. Each drawer had a small fleshy lamella type structure attached on the outer lateral surface and I peered in to see a minute floating clear concave disc in a small sea of transparent fluid in each drawer. There was a slight gravitational pull on the top part of my face. Intrigued I followed it, and found in the following few seconds my open eyes were above each drawer. A small vacuum seal formed attaching my orbit to the drawer when I simultaneously felt something (which I assumed to be the fleshy lamella structures) insert into my mind through my ear. The gravitational pull stopped, the seal was broken and I slowly raised my head to find my surroundings now appeared a little blurred. The empty drawers resumed their place blending seamlessly into the tiled wall.

During the following minutes my vision became more focussed and continued to change subtly with each blink, producing a profound effect. My visual field had become a mixture of reality and automation, almost like a news screen. In the centre on the far right were the time, date and temperature in white print, and in the lowermost section of my vision was messaging information, in addition to the headlines and latest news.

On arrival to the kitchen, I had become accustomed to the foreign objects in my eyes and almost forgotten their presence. I heard a knock at the door, and before even having time to turn to approach it, I noticed a flashing at the upper left of my vision reading ‘CALEB DONAGHUE AT THE DOOR, PLEASE ENTER RESPONSE’. I somehow inadvertently indicated to the house or lenses or something (frankly I’m not sure which) that Caleb could come in. Within minutes I heard footsteps heading my way.

‘Morning, glad to see you wired in. So I see you’ve got your head round some of the gizmos. You not changed the Visual?’ Caleb asked as he entered the kitchen.

I shook my head, and offered him a drink looking around the foreign kitchen unsure of where I would actually make a drink.

‘No thanks, we need to get going,’ Caleb replied with a sense of urgency in his voice. ‘Glad you put your lenses in, the World would be a pretty bleak place without them. You should change the Visual, a suit may be more appropriate.’

I stared at Caleb a little perplexed contemplating how to change this Visual that he seemed obsessed with. No sooner had I started to think of possible ways of changing it, a three-dimensional screen opened in front of me as if from a search engine. I scrolled down without even touching the ‘screen’, and there the answer lay. ‘A three step guide to changing the Visual, either manually or through the lenses.’ I selected the lenses option – ‘1) scroll through Visual’s that are in the closet or visit the store 2) make a selection 3) upload the image.’ The page was additionally laden with advertisements for the latest Visuals from various clothing retailers and designers. There was a small disclaimer at the bottom of the page reminding of a need to change the Image (the grotesque white skin tight suit) every two to three days for hygiene reasons.

‘That’s better. Shall we go,’ Caleb commanded, a second after I had bought a navy blue suit with a white shirt.

As I stepped out the front door, I found myself in an exquisite tower building in the middle of the city. Had I taken time to appreciate the views earlier I probably would’ve seen the whole city from my bedroom. Looking down through seventy-eight glass floors all the way to the ground, I felt intimidated by the sheer height of where I stood. I followed Caleb into the elevator that stood opposite my front door. Upon entering, it plunged down.

‘You need to be keeping a mental log, otherwise you won’t be able to brief me on the schedule,’ Caleb told me authoritatively and I began to wonder whether he could be briefed on anything.

I nodded in agreement, a little distracted by my impeccable surroundings. Was I in heaven? Leaving the glass-constructed tower we walked onto an unblemished landscape where nature had nurtured her subjects with nimble inveterate fingers. I certainly did not recall this view from the previous night. There was a brick path on which I was standing, paving the way forward weaving between a mixture of glass towers and regal Victorian style buildings that you may expect to find on a London street. I looked up to see an ornamental blue sky accommodating the brightly burning sun. The serene path provided a haven from the bright rays for about fifty yards as elms interlocked to form an arch above my head, after which the path was guarded by sentinel cypress’s standing on either side. Looking around there were several other individuals conducting their daily business.

‘Takes your breath away,’ I said.

‘Well, it’s partly of your making. We should get a move on, this way,’ Caleb directed.

After a brief walk we entered a small windowless brick building, which housed an odd semi-circular vehicle that seemed to be composed of a glass-metal hybrid substance. Around its base and sidewalls were several horizontal metal rims resembling tyres. Caleb had already entered the device and was signalling I should do the same.

‘I’m guessing this is your first time in a HV. It can feel a little odd, just remember to breathe,’ Caleb assured me as I took my seat in the front next to him, looking out of the panoramic windscreen.

‘A HV?’

‘Yes, it’s based on the original principles of hovercrafts, with rammed up power. It’s a fast safe form of transportation. Especially, since the teleporters were taken off the market following the organ losses. There initially were some concerns with HVs, as the body begins to separate at these speeds because some organs are travelling fractionally slower and are in essence left behind. But most of the problems have been ironed out, otherwise M.O.S never would have approved it,’ Caleb paused. He seemed unsure of how to continue. ‘I know you have lots of questions, but everything cannot be answered as fast as you want it to be.’

The HV descended underground into a series of linked tunnels and shot off at great speed. There was little use for the windscreen as my eyes could barely register anything at these speeds. For a second, I felt as though I may be flung out. It was an odd sensation – the mixed feeling of complete security and total instability. No more than a few minutes had passed before we parked up and were once more on foot.

We approached a distorted building with a wedge-shaped base that steeply narrowed in and upon which were stacked many overlapping platforms; the building was covered in a glass skin onto which a steel exoskeleton formed a lattice of hexagonal structures unifying its multifaceted form. We ascended to the topmost hundred and fifty-fifth floor and entered a large reception area leading to a meeting room where we were accompanied by several others who greeted me before taking their seats at the large table.

‘You sure you’re doing the right thing? It’s not too late to back out,’ affectionately said a small greying man as he shook my hand, ‘just remember that son.’

Around thirty individuals sat around a large hexagonal table that had a black tile to the right of every seat. Each individual proceeded to activate the tile by placing their hand upon it. I followed. As I did so, a three dimensional screen appeared before me. ‘WELCOME ETHAN LORENTZ’ it read, below which appeared an agenda. Caleb was sat to my right. He stood to address the table.

‘Friends we have gathered here today,’ Caleb began.

In a blink everything changed. Sitting at a laptop I was typing unfathomable commands (at speed) to break into an account of some sort and once this was accomplished started scanning through numerous e-mails looking for something. I needed to get back, but had no idea how to. Fortunately in the next blink I was back, I had returned. Looking to my right I found Caleb still standing and fully in command on the table.

‘Today is a monumental day, a day I am honoured to ask you all to participate in. A great mind of our generation, my best friend, has decided it is time for him to sign across all his work, copyrights, and much of his estate to me including the esteemed Euclid tower. Before he does so, I would like to ask you all to applaud him on his contribution to our society and to our lives. Thank you Ethan.’

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Filed under Fiction, Novel, The Book: Aesthesia