The Dinner Party

Sometime in the Near Future

Myra stepped out of her spiked heels and lay them side by side in the closet. She removed her hot pink leather jacket and hung it up next to a selection of silks and feathery things. The day had been long and she wanted to get back to her own work, a luxury she tied up within herself, to make it so completely hers she could always find sanity and solace in her passion. To have some ongoing project that most people weren’t capable of, their time and energy being sapped by the work they had to do for other people so that all they could do in their own time was smoke and to relax out of it. Myra’s relaxation was specialized. Her energy never burned out; she was constantly doing, building, creating. All it took was a brief flick of her finger across the surface of her desk and she logged in to the vast world network, billions of people plugging away at other work, finishing touches on architectural plans, billboard videos and “talkies,” updating status quotes for those who cared enough to read them and then wish they hadn’t, ogling and simulating sex with avatarss from other states. Cleared after entering the password and her quiet descended. This was her private board space; something that only a serious hacker could enter, but why they would target her was a ridiculous thought to entertain, so she didn’t entertain it and settled down in front of the screen, the speakers playing some elegant instrumental that would guide her fingertips instead of her brain.

A room opened up before her. Gray carpeting with a faux sheepskin rug underneath a bright blue lacquered table with chrome legs. The sofa was a deeper blue leather draped with a red blanket over the back of it and behind that were built-in white bookshelves with tons and tons of multicolored book jackets pressing against one another with a real sense of weight, of friction like bodies sardined on a train. To the right was the open floor plan kitchen, and in between this entry room and that shot off bedrooms and bathrooms, one on either side. To the left was a huge glass wall with an automatic sliding door to the patio outside. It wasn’t large; she didn’t like a lot of space, that seemed too weird, a desire that shouldn’t be formed for its lack of possibility in the outside world. Instead, she liked her spaces small and well planned and with a retro-mod flare that she built up through long hours of searches on 1960’s and 1970’s architecture, fashion and furniture. So outside, there was the small gray wood patio and beyond that a L-shape of bright green grass flecked with orange flowers. The fence was redwood, something she had seen once as a child, and then never again, the image burned in her, the deep darkness of the wood, its dimension and its visual tactile stimulation.

She wanted to be laying on the couch, one leg splayed carelessly off the edge, a creamy white arm with red fingernails wrapped around the stem of a wine glass. And she wanted white wine, though that was a ridiculous want, but it was one she’d indulge for the sake of the image of it. Somewhere in the background there would be music playing on a record player, and a man with broad shoulders and a reckless smile would come in, pretending he did not notice her, to speak with the other dinner guests. Myra positioned her cursor over red lips, built up a sultry woman in a creamy satin gold dress with a low back and dangly earrings. She gave her a high collar of black lace that trailed down the smooth arch of her back and ended in long strands of black crow’s feathers, spotted with some glittering gem. The woman’s skin was brown with thick black eyebrows and black hair knotted in a bun. She gave the man her hand and they walked outside in search of the Professor.

Myra chewed the inside of her cheek when she worked, her eyes intense upon the screen, blotting out the sound of the music and just let it ride within her as she let it open up doors, put more people in position, create the depressed actress trying to seduce the New Fioria art dealer with the holographic spats who was in turn trying to seduce Amani, owner of Picnic, a specialty restaurant that simulated an open field of rolling hills, beautiful sunny days, oak trees and babbling brooks, where you could order a picnic meal and sit inside on the grass and enjoy old fashioned sandwiches, pizzas, simulated bottles of wine, heady not because of the alcohol in them but for a chemical replacement that made those who imbibed giddy and happy and never ran them into the ground. The Dinner Party, as it perpetually was, was her own design. An attempt to get at something more real than what passed before her in the other world. She hesitated even when she thought the word “real.” It was such a dangerously complex insinuation that made her head pound when she thought too hard about it. She wasn’t a philosopher, she was a seeker, a passionate builder with an aim at finding something¬† true and beyond, something, at least, she could wrap her head around.

Only one guest was unbidden to the party. The Professor showed up as a character she did not create and she had not sensed any hack or virus or glitch around his appearance. He was, in a turtleneck t-shirt and facial scruff, attractive and somehow unreachable. None of the other guests ever talked to him, though at some point or another they all attempted to find him. He was there and he was not there. She knew he existed, they knew he existed, everyone was actively searching him out, she saw his red turtleneck and flash of white teeth as he gave a private smile, though she never actually saw him, nor could the other guests succeed in reaching him.

Her avatar was an exact replica of herself. She felt no desire like most did to create something extra. She wanted to see her own figure interacting in those other landscapes, with other users, wanted to have the closest approximation of virtual reality as stable reality. It was much calmer there much more oriented and, well, stable. Stupid that they, considered the “real” world the stable one. There was still inhumanity, irrationality, violence, hunger, complex political evils and corporate ones, diseases, animal cruelty…things you would have though they’d have figured out by now. People still walked around skin sagging and mouths pulled down in perpetual frowns. Sure there were online clubs for violent sex and to do really bizarre and twisted things to each other. Even on the net there was political or corporate control. But you could avoid it better, and you could choose to interact with it or not. There were plenty of ways to live beyond the system’s reach within the greater system of the internet, and that was what Myra burned for – that freedom from other people’s logic, even from her own. She wanted, more than anything, to log in with that music humming through her body, and be subsumed by it – to be fully controlled in a landscape of her own design and safety, to be conscious and find pleasure in the tugs and emotional sway of cellos and violins and synthesized electronics. She could design her own world to live in, she had that capability. But since the Professor showed up, she was never able to go beyond the dinner party.

TBC

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