Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Beast, Pt. 75 (Chapter 18f)

I am not rubbing anything on my genitals!” I shout louder than is necessary. I’m dimly aware that any passerby is going to hear me screaming about my genitals, but I’m in no state for that to matter or silence me. The only thing that matters in this moment is communicating my righteous indignation to this overglorified toaster.

“Well, that’s inconsistent with my analysis of your situation. My professional analysis, mind you.”

“Fuck you, toaster.”

“I am neither interested nor waterproof.”

I cross my arms and pout. “Listen, I’m your customer. Hell, I’m your patient. Don’t you have to do what I ask so long as I don’t hurt myself?”

The smug LED smile becomes a frown. “That’s not strictly true,” the auto-doc says hesitantly.

“Well, I need that anesthetic or I’m going to hurt myself. Unspeakable things will happen. I feel out of control. But not in any sort of vague psychological sense that would necessitate a psychiatric hold. I only feel out of control if I can’t get that anesthetic.”

The machine renders the digital equivalent of nervous chewing of its lip. “I can’t–” it begins, but I simply stick out my hands, and it just sighs. “Please place your hands under the dispenser,” it says. “And may God have mercy on us both.”

I roll my eyes, put my hands under the dispenser, rub in the anesthetic. “Wait a minute,” I say after the tingling gives way to a pleasant numbness. “What about the numbness? I mean, the stimulant? I mean, caffeine? Or, stim? Wait…”

“There’s stim mixed into the compound. Mild, but long-lasting. As you requested.”

“Oh. Well, then.” There is something else, and it’s on the tip of my tongue, but whatever it is escapes me. The auto-doc goes quiet waiting for me to speak, to react, and in time the screen goes from blue to blank, and a wave of panic fills me. I’m alone, alone, and I want to say something to it, keep the conversation going, keep the banter going, keep the noise going, but my tongue is so much useless meat in my mouth and it won’t obey any of my commands. I stand there, silent, numbed, helpless.

There’s a woman’s voice from behind me, high and breathy, rehearsed and measured, putting stresses on all the right words and syllables to create a tone that’s confident and flirty and teasing all at once. A singer’s voice. An actress’s voice. “This is your party, right? What are you doing hiding all by yourself in here?”

I spin around on my heels, and I’d be raising my fists if my arms would cooperate instead of flopping around limply. I blink once, twice. I know I’ve seen this woman before, but I don’t remember her in the slightest, so where would I know her from? Her name’s on the tip of my tongue, and more than anything, I’m frustrated at the failure of my own mind to piece this puzzle together.

She whistles a few notes, a song terribly vapid and familiar and suddenly it clicks.

“Oh, shit! You’re bearcat!” I wince as soon as this leaves my mouth. No one’s bearcat. There’s no such thing as bearcats anymore. Bearcats haven’t existed for at least a hundred years. The very notion is gibberish.

She frowns, crosses her arms under her considerable chest. “Uh, yeah. Something like that. Cat Berry. Nice to meet you.”

I recoil like I’ve been slapped, narrow my eyes, appraise her suspiciously. I don’t think it’s actually nice to meet me. I think I’m in her way somehow, although I don’t quite know how. If this really is Cat Berry, the Cat Berry, the one I’m only vaguely aware of from vids and pop culture, I don’t know how I could possibly be in her way. She’s a millionaire. A billionaire if she’s invested her money wisely. What obstacle could I possibly present to her?

“You’re in Miss Berry’s way,” a voice growls, and I look behind her and I swear to God, there’s a fucking gorilla there. Sure, the thing’s been shaved and stuffed into a suit and it doesn’t really look like a gorilla and gorillas have been extinct even longer than bearcats, but I recognize a sagittal crest when I see one. And I’m ready to fight and my fists are feeling so good and numb that I have to look down at them to make sure that they’re even balled up into fists, but they are, so I look back at her gorilla bodyguard and I say, “Excuse me?”

“I’ve got this, Aloysius,” she says over her shoulder, and the Gigantopithecus that serves at her beck and call backs off with a grunt and a snort. She turns to face me, flashes a smile that would raise a paparazzo corpse from the dead erection first and says, “I heard there was an auto-doc in here, so I wanted to score some alprazolam. You know. To help take the edge off.”

I stare at her. It’s hard, for reasons I don’t entirely understand. I see breasts, I see lips, I see a waist, but the key components aren’t assembling themselves into a cohesive whole. I’m standing in front of the auto-doc, my tongue snaking across my lips like an autonomous snake, my eyes unfocused, my body either twitching spastically or swaying rhythmically. I can’t even tell anymore. “So, uh, Miss Bear. Eee. Miss Beary. What brings you to my humble party today? I mean, you’re right. I’m the host. This is mine. This is all mine. Soiree. What brings you to my soiree?”

She smirks. Not a smile, not a grin, not anything but a smug little smirk. She shrugs, rolls her eyes up towards the ceiling, smiles a rehearsed smile. It’s an act. It’s all an act, one practiced to perfection, one performed a thousand times before. “Oh, you know,” she says. “Just slumming it.”


The Beast, Pt. 74 (Chapter 18e)

Climbing the stairs is like walking up a fucking pyramid, all geometry and lower back pain. I am too big for this world. My ankles sit at unnatural angles and it’s a miracle that the thermodynamics of my body don’t give my calves cramps so bad that they snap like the overwound strings of a guitar.

But it’s also only like twenty feet, so, you know. Whatever.

I make my way over to the fitness center, the sound of clanging metal and impressed oohs and aahs filling the air. Someone’s trying to show off by lifting heavy things and then putting them back down again. I kind of wish I’d thought of that, but then I’d have to talk to people. No sense in impressing myself.

I swing open the door and there’s a couple I’ve never seen before fucking on the bench press station, the man lying on his back and the woman riding him, her hand on the barbell. My stomach jumps inside me and my face twists in disgust.

They didn’t even bother to take the bar off the thing and the bench is terribly narrow. The whole thing’s dangerous and impractical. The villa’s full of far more sensible places to have exhibitionist sex in. Honestly, if you’re going to do a thing like this, you might as well do it right.

The door slams shut behind me, the noise loud enough to get the attention of the two lovers. They stop mid-bounce, the man craning his head up to look at me, the woman twisting and looking over her shoulder.

“Dude!” he shouts. “Get the fuck out!”

I shrug, walk over to the auto-doc in the corner. “Please re-rack the weights and wipe down the equipment when you’re done using it.”

“Get the fuck out!” he shouts, louder this time. The woman is silent, either shocked and embarrassed beyond words or else a paragon of restraint relative to the man.

I am neither of those things. I spin on my heels and take a deep breath, exhale forcefully. My words spill out of my mouth, thick as oil, punctuated by spittle and snorting, a bear given utterance. “You are real fucking mouthy for somebody naked and on their back. Why don’t you try being polite before I come over there, bash your skull in, and give your corpse the kind of fucking you couldn’t give her if your life depended on it, huh?”

The man’s eyes go wide, his mouth silent. The woman snorts, stifles laughter. Whatever bestial spirit possessed me disappears just as quickly. Probably about as quickly as the tough guy’s erection. I turn back to the auto-doc, activate it, wait for it to boot up. Behind me, I can hear muttering, apologies, the sound of people putting on clothes, the door opening and shutting. It’s not until that click fills the air that the blue LED face shows up in front of me. Like it was waiting.

“Welcome back, Sir,” it says with a smile. “What can I do for you? Ringer’s Lactate again? A small dose of caffeine, perhaps? Or did you just want someone to listen to you for a little bit.”

I’ve already forgotten why I came in here. All I can think about is the couple I chased off. What’s that guy going to do once his embarrassment and his pride overcome his fear? Come after me, maybe. Get his buddies, maybe. I might have to fight. I need to be sharp.

“Yeah,” I say, my voice coming out like a croak. “Stim. Long-lasting. Nothing too heavy, though. And, uh, my knuckles hurt. Topical anesthetic, please. Also long-lasting”

The LED face stops smiling. It looks at me with lidded eyes and thin line for a mouth, the digital equivalent of a look of profound skepticism. “Well. That’s sort of an odd request.”

“You offered me caffeine.”

“I meant the anesthetic. Why do your knuckles hurt? When did this begin? On a scale of one to ten, how would you describe the pain?”

“Ten. It’s the worst pain of my life. I think I’m going to die if you don’t give me a mild but enduring topical anesthetic for my knuckles.”

“Sir. Just because my screen wasn’t on doesn’t mean I didn’t take an interest in your conversation with the lady and the gentleman who were in copulating earlier. I know what you want the anesthetic for.”

My breath catches in my throat. A cold sweat breaks out on my skin. I could try and keep myself calm and collected, but this damn thing’s a robotic daughter. I’m sure it has cameras capable of reading my pulse and determining whether or not I’m lying by the fact that my face is flushing and its temperature has increased by a half of a degree. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yes. You’re going to rub it on your genitals in an attempt to prevent premature ejaculation.”

The Beast, Pt. 73 (Chapter 18d)

There are no broken windows, and it’s not for lack of trying. The walls of this place are made out of something engineered to resist the stupid destructive impulses of the drunk and drugged and our best minds can’t figure out any way of penetrating their defenses. Someone screams out, “Fireworks!” and a squad of partygoers takes off to find the auto-doc and see if they can convince the damn thing to produce black powder with all the magic it has in its glowy guts. First, do no harm. Second, sulfur and carbon and saltpeter, please. Normally this is the sort of thing I’d be overseeing, but I’m just intoxebriated enough to remember that I don’t remember anything from any chemistry class I’ve ever taken, or if I’ve ever taken a chemistry class, or what the password on my Commconn is so I could look up the definition of chemistry. I think I changed the password on the thing to keep myself from destroying my social life, but it’s also possible that I’ve simply stolen someone else’s device. I don’t recall setting my Commconn to have a cute kitten on its home screen chastizing me and insisting that I return it to Molly Scott-Wheeler at once.

But damned if that doesn’t give me the idea to try and convince the auto-doc that we need methylendioxy-methamphetamine so we can all bond more and get that entactogenic goodness on.

Fireworks first, though. A man’s got to have priorities, and right now Googe is prioritizing being a human salt lick, laying out on the dining room table while the triplets perform some kind of arcane ritual on him with agave liquor, sodium chloride, and citrus. There’s a gathered crowd, laughing and whooping as the women take turns nipping and sucking at his flesh, but I can only watch for a moment. I’ve got no appetite for watching one of my oldest dearest friends be devoured as part of a ritual to some blasphemous ancient god.

In the corner of the living room furthest from the speakers (a geometric paradox, since the speakers are wired into the walls of the villa themselves,) Erb and Monk are playing some bizarre combination of chess, Matchstick Corbo, and what appears to be Twister. There are six people playing, and each of them has members of the opposite sex draped on them like so much meat. Judging from the intense look of concentration on both Erb and Monk’s faces, this is a legitimate challenge and handicap. I’ve never seen too men so utterly uninvested in the women hanging off them, laughing and squirming and whispering (what I assume to be) sweet nothings into their ears.

Papa Chub I don’t see at all, which I assume means that he’s vigorously inserting his penis into and out of some random stranger. Or maybe he’s just in the bathroom. I resolve to go looking for him, but then I remember that I have a stranger’s phone, and I should probably go see the auto-doc about Molly.

The Beast, Pt. 72 (Chapter 18c)

People stream into the villa. Men, women, college-aged individuals better called boys and girls. There are clones, twins, whatever. There are people we’ve seen before and complete strangers, faces half-remembered through a haze of disinterest and mind-altering substances. We contact room service again, order more food, more alcohol, more everything. We’re going to need a bigger spread. The hotel workers are impeccably dressed and unflappably expressioned, but even they let their guard slip for a moment at the scene that’s beginning to unfold before them. They’re used to catering to the whims of perpetually wealthy, of the “well-off enough to throw a wild bachelor party, but it’s a one-time thing.” They open the door expecting exotic prostitutes, a horsey show, a bunch of people playing strip poker while half-nude slaves tend to their needs. A roaring party in a place like the Libretto’s villas is so mundane that it’s legitimately unexpected. So simple, so obvious. Their expressions register surprise for only a moment, but I see it, I see it, and I’m surprisingly pleased with myself because of it.

“Anywhere in the kitchen’s good. If you get mobbed and people try to help themselves to what’s on the cart before then, it’s probably best if you just dropped everything and ran. Don’t try and be heroes, you know?”

“Yes, Sir. Very good, Sir.”

They make it to the kitchen and out again easily. I’m almost disappointed by it all. There must be two dozen people here already, but the villa could fit a hundred. We can do better than this. We can be better than this. I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly. An orgy, perhaps? But this feels like it could be any of the countless parties I’ve been to in my life. New Year’s, Christmas, Halloween, birthdays.

Which is fine. I suppose. I’d rather have other people around than not. If Sarah Winchester built a labyrinth to keep her personal minotaurs at bay, I can certainly cram an apartment full of revelers. But I want to see some revelry, damnit. People are still just mingling. There’s music but no one’s dancing. Drinking, but no games. I want excess. I want people wearing lampshades on their heads and doing lines of drugs off glass tables in the suite’s living room and undressing each other in the bedrooms. I want a party that goes for days, weeks, months, and if I have to, I will become Maxwell’s demon, gatekeeper, you shall not pass, but you may, yes, you have enough energy to beat back the laws of thermodynamics. Your buddies here can go fuck themselves, so sayeth the demon.

In the room, the women come and go talking of Malangelo, Cat Berry, the stars in the upcoming sequels.

The Beast, Pt. 71 (Chapter 18b)

We kick open the door of the villa like we’re a bunch of cops raiding the place. It’s largely an empty gesture; the locks are keyed to our biometrics and the door opened as we approached it. It’s entirely possible the thing would have opened on its own if we’d simply waited for a few seconds. But waiting is a form of oppression, and we will not be oppressed. Rather, we will impress, and so long as the women are still laughing and smiling and rolling their eyes good-naturedly, the universe will continue turning like a music box tuned to the whims of the God of Bros and Good Times.

There’s a catered spread on the dining room table awaiting us. Meats and cheeses and snacks and sweets and ever more drinks. There’s a little note on the edge of the table, white paper folded in half, the Libretto’s logo, tasteful embossing. “Enjoy, boys! We get off work at 1. If you’re throwing a party, we’d better get an invite,” and then a drawing of a winking face, a name, a number. I show it to Papa Chub and ask him, “Hey, who the Hell is this?”

He looks at it for only a moment before glancing back at me, disbelief playing across his drunken features. “The chef from earlier, man.”

“Oh. I didn’t get her name.”

“How did you not get her name?”

“I don’t know. I’m bad with names.”

He rolls his eyes at that. “You’re only bad with names when you don’t care.”

I purse my lips in irritation. “Hey, I care. I care tons. I care so much–”

One of Googe’s triplets slides in between us, a cigar held to her lips. “Hey, can one of you gentlemen give me a light?” and I’m spinning on my heels, looking for a lighter of some sort on the table (there’s actually a butane chef’s torch nestled amongst the sweets for reasons I will never understand.) I light the cigar, encourage her to turn it between her fingers and take puffs rather than just stick the end into the fire. It’s lit, she says thank you, I smile guilelessly, turn back to Papa Chub.

“Wait, what were you saying?”

“Nothing, man. Absolutely nothing.”

In between sips and nibbles, one of the three daughters asks what we’re going to do next. Monk says, “Well, earlier we were playing this game, Matchstick Corbo. We could do that again.”

The daughter, the blonde, frowns. “Like, a board game? I’m not really in the mood for board games.” Her expression changes suddenly, becomes something so bright it’s like being blasted with a floodlight. “Let’s put on some music! Our friends should be here soon.”

Googe and I set about locating the sound system for the villa, setting it to pump music into the main rooms, trying to come up with a playlist of modern danceable stuff and older, more classical songs. Distantly I hear Monk tell the others that they should invite the girls we were hanging out with in the day, Papa Chub responding with, “I’m working on it, I’m working on it.” There is a knock at the door. The villa announces the arrival of more guests.

The Beast, Pt. 70 (Chapter 18a)

We take a bottle of some technicolor liquor with us and leave the lounge. I’m a little surprised that the bouncer doesn’t try and stop us, try and tell us that we can’t take drinks outside the premises with us. Maybe the laws of the Meadows allow it. Maybe the same company owns the lounge owns the car service owns the Libretto, so we’re never really entering a public space. Maybe this is just a perk of throwing around your money; nobody is going to try and stop you.

Things are already escalating. The laughter is louder, comes quicker. The jokes make less sense but are somehow funnier. The two groups of women are getting along excellently. Perhaps it’s a matter of genetics, selected for and amplified. And we men, silly and obvious and predictable, are stumbling over ourselves to impress them, to amuse them, to endear ourselves to them. We tell the stories that make us sound funny. We tell the stories that make us sound worldy and interesting. We tell the stories that make us sound humble and down to earth despite all the other ones. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. It must be because the women are outside with us, they’re in the limousine with us (wait, how did we all fit inside? There are eleven of us now. Did the AI bring around a bigger limo?), they’re egging us on as we talk about all the plans we had if we ever stumbled backwards into a pile of money.

“If you have a villa, you have to throw a giant party. The space is too big to waste on just us.”

“Ooh, I’ll invite my friends! Can I invite my friends? You’re going to love them, I promise.”

“Wait, what about all those names and numbers we got the other night? We did get a pile of names and numbers, right? Call them. Call them immediately.”

“Hey, we’ve got to get the Libretto to cater this thing! Get some food and drinks up in the villa!”

Googe and Papa Chub take out their Conncomms, begin texting and dialing and subvocating. I toss my own at Monk, tell him to figure out the situation with room service. As soon as they begin busying themselves, my attention slides elsewhere. The redhead is leaning forward, her elbows on her knees laughing, her dress displaying her decolletage for all the world to see, but really, just me. In this moment, I’m king of the world. I have fallen down and worshipped, and all these things were given to me.

The bottle is in my left hand. I take a pull from it, idly wonder how it got there, how many hundreds of credits I just wasted without even savoring the flavor. Either the nanites and the cocktails of drugs have worn off, or if I’ve just taxed them past their limits. The former, maybe, since my friends seem to be in much the same state as me even though they haven’t been going as hard.

The limo pulls up at the private entry to the Libretto and we pour out like a riot. The night is building towards some unknowable purpose. We have shed ten years each, become stupid boys on the verge of stumbling blindly into adulthood once more. We will push this thing as far as we can go, our faith keeping us aloft, our blind faith that our actions will have no meaningful consequences and that we can live forever if we only want it badly enough.

The Beast, Pt. 69 (Chapter 17o)

We leave Googe to his machinations and go to rejoin Erb and Monk. They’re still being their usual charming selves, and Papa Chub and I slide seamlessly back into the conversation. From time to time, my eyes wander over to where Googe is sitting and laughing with the triplets, and I feel a twinge of jealousy needle at my innards, but I ignore it. He’s happy, and it’s not as if he’s taken anything from me, and I want to be the kind of person that can celebrate my friends’ happiness, not mourn because it isn’t my own. At other times (what feels like an eternity ago, but was really no more than a few years,) I would have been a drunken mess about things, inserting myself into the conversation and teasing Googe and trying to seize the reins of things. I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be yet, but I’d undoubtedly improved.

The redhead snaps her fingers and leans forward, a smirk on her face. “So. Why are you guys really here?”

“Just vacationing. Spending time with the boys, you know? Crew love, et cetera.”

“Sure, sure. That’s why you’re here as a whole, but why are you each here? Why didn’t you guys go camping somewhere, or to EUC or ASC or something? Why the Meadows?”

We glance at each other, the girls chuckling at our seeming hive mind as we do so. “Belated bachelor party,” Monk offers.

“I needed a vacation, and here I am,” Papa Chub says with an authoritarian air.

Erb shrugs. “I just kind of got dragged along. I mean, I’m happy to be here, don’t get me wrong. But when it’s my turn to choose a vacation, I’m picking camping like you said.”

I nod my heads over towards Googe. “He likes the Meadows. I think the romanticism of the place appeals to him. Roll the dice, win big, meet someone awesome.”

“And what about you?”

I open my mouth, shut it, frown, stop frowning, shrug. “I just wanted to escape reality for a little bit.”

“How honest!”

“That’s me. Mister Honesty.”

For a while, I just listen. More people come and leave, including a rather large group evenly mixed between men and women. There seem to be a few different models between them, but their clothing is virtually identical, making them look for all the world like a particularly lazy palette swap. But one of them is different. She’s dressed in beige where everyone else is dressed in pastels, but somehow this makes her stand out. I study her, the hem of her dress that ends just a bit above her knees, fair and muscled calves, thin arms, light hair. She’s standing at the bar, and her back is to me for the longest time, and I find it kind of strange that she hasn’t gotten a drink or turned around to talk to anyone yet. The people around her have been served, have come and gone.

Googe comes back with the triplets, introduces them, something about precious gemstones that I promptly forget. My attention is entirely focused on the woman at the bar, on waiting for her to turn around. The girls at our table are all getting along reasonably well, and there’s talk of going somewhere else and doing something more interesting, but I don’t weigh in. Instead, I start to notice something strange.

In the dim warm light of the lounge, the woman’s dress has gotten lighter and lighter, brightening from a beige to a cream to a warm white to a true white, even though the ambient quality of the light in the room hasn’t changed. There is tension in her shoulders now, visibly so, and her hair seems to be shifting ever so slightly from time to time. As if she’s about to turn around, but isn’t yet. As if she could at any moment. As if she certainly will, and soon.

And what will we become of me then?

I drum my fingers on the table. The conversation is going nowhere, talking about clubs and bars and restaurants and dismissing them just as quickly. Googe offers, “You know, we could always go back to our place. We have a villa at the Libretto.”

Eyes go wide at that. There are coos of appreciation and grunts of assent. I say to no one in particular, “That’s a great idea. Let’s go now.”

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