Tuesdays In Heaven
Chet hovered in the foyer of Total Immersion Software, radiating unease until a salesman detached himself from the front desk. Professionals paid for people, not virtuals.
“Help you?” The salesman sported fashionable periodwear, tight dark suit and tie, with shiny black shoes, spoiled only by the viral marbling on his brow.
“Sir,” he added as an afterthought. The chip in Chet’s arm might show credit, but they both knew what he was.
“Lookin’ for a fictal.”
Chet was third generation virtual dole, one of that flaccid, pasty-faced tribe, sunk deep in the genetic underclass, pliant from its daily hours under the spell.
The salesman leaned in. “Shouldn’t say this, but Dreams-R-Us do takeaway code, tenth the price.”
The alarm rings. Seven thirty. He brushes his wife’s blonde hair from her face and kisses her. The sheets are white Egyptian cotton, freshly laundered and smelling of sunshine. He steps into the shower, singing as it fills with steam, as hot water gushes over him. Summertime Blues, he sings, by Eddie Cochran.
A necktie takes two hands, but standing in front of the mirror he knots it effortlessly. In the kitchen, his wife is spooning food into their child. Their child is blonde like his wife, though in the scene with the mirror he discovered his own hair is dark.
His child lifts sticky hands to him and he deftly swoops in on the stained face to blow a noise with his lips on her forehead. She chortles. She smells sweet and milky; she smells of love.
His wife gives him a lingering kiss before he leaves for work.
Chet haggled with Chelsea Dog over a don’t-ask fictal. You a dole boy, grinned Chelsea Dog, gap-toothed. You pay with time under the spell. Keep you quiet. Off the streets. But this Tuesdays In Heaven, it a fictal Professionals use.
Turned out the end was missing and Chelsea Dog gave no refunds.
So he rented out his brain on the black market, remote cargo handling in Singapore, optimising traffic flow in Mumbai, something to do with fire risk assessment in Melbourne, repaid with real credit and blinding headaches. He stayed clean in case of sniffers, dressed legal and queued to enter the city.
The car has too many controls, but he seems to know instinctively how to fire up this big, chrome-finned machine. The other cars move at terrifying speeds, and soon he is moving at terrifying speed too. His glance flickers across dials. Over 40 mph. He relaxes his death grip on the turning wheel. This is what drivers do.
The music in the car keeps mentioning someone called Peggy Sue. He drums the wheel but sighs with relief when the drive into work is over.
He works with other Professionals, though it is unclear what they do, but they seem to like him. Morning, they say, and women in pencil skirts smile at him. They may be pretty, but his own wife is beautiful. He licks his lips to see if they still taste of her.
He has his own office where cumbersome telephones keep ringing. It seems there is a crisis. A deadline adds tension. Are lives in danger? Probably not, but money is at risk. He has discovered actual banknotes in his wallet.
The deadline involves a deal, or maybe making something important work in time. Overnight, a thought has occurred to him, a clever thought that might fix everything.
“Don’t do the one I want,” Chet said. He didn’t have the words. His sort didn’t have the words for the opposite of pointless and ugly.
The salesman straightened up. “Empty booth over here.”
Chet blinked at the price and could have bit his tongue when he blurted out to make sure it had the ending.
The salesman worked a virtual console. “Memory laydown as standard, so you get to keep it.”
Chet needn’t have worried. Silverlace snug on his head like under the spell at home. Under the spell though, you just got a slice of hazy action, some sex, some gossip, an endless plot inching forward; something to talk about on waking from the communal dream.
“You want interactive?” The salesman glanced up, fingers poised over empty air.
“Director’s cut it is.”
There he is, working at his desk. The waste bin is surrounded by crumpled-up paper. Now he is pacing backwards and forwards, thinking. Later, a girl in a tight sweater shows someone important in.
He waits for the girl to leave, watching her wiggle away, though it is his wife, the mother of his daughter he desires more. The eyes of his boss slowly widen with understanding as he explains the bold new plan.
After that, the day is on fast-forward: Meetings. Being slapped on the back. Talk of promotion.
I have news, he tells his wife at dinner. I have news too, she tells him. They stand over the cot of their sleeping daughter, listening to her loud breathing. They will need a second cot, a bigger house, but his success means this is not a problem now.
Bedtime. He slips between the Egyptian cotton sheets and his wife holds him in the darkness. The scent of her.
Adolescent Professionals, loud and modishly hairless, crowd into the foyer as Chet is leaving. They argue whether to role-play Tuesdays In Heaven, seizing control of the immersion software as they will their own futures.
“Trouble with happiness,” drawls the tall one. “Every day’s the same.”
Unnoticed, Chet ducks past, holding onto the thought of his beautiful wife, his lovely daughter.
“But not if she has an affair!” squeals the girl with violet new-gene eyes.
Cops red-dot him, even though he just sat by the bodies, his head in his hands. What else could he do? A man had to protect his family.