Yesterday, the Dream Garden show opened with flashes of light that made me fall back against the cushions. Gray and green points sprayed over the dome canopy like a wailing hose, crying into my ears like something in the throes of death.
The neural net of the costume I wore — an ocean elemental — made everything swirl back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in my head. My thoughts repeated circularly, I could feel the tides, and my skin felt wet. My hands had become an amorphous blob of sea that sucked against the sandy shores of my nails, and my hair shot into the sky like a stream of water. Two of my coworkers had chosen android-type skins, and their holograms glowed with half-moon eyes and metallic shapes. My other coworkers had chosen things from mythology.
They had said not to choose something so weird my first time, but I hadn’t listened because I can be young and arrogant. I was too proud to settle for something tame and familiar.
We had food and ćukuseh fume bowls. Right before the beginning of the show, I placed a nut-and-meat mixture onto my plate to eat quickly because the neural array had started working on me, and I couldn’t think of anything else but food. I made the same repetitive, oceanic actions over and over again. Our server, who had no holographic skin or neural array, prepared our wine by warming and aerating it in a series of pipes. Le mixed it in a krater with the spoonfuls of dark purple spices that made the wine delicious. As le mellowed it, le intoned prayers to the Sabaji version of Yilrega whose name escapes me. Le only presides over wine to them, an import from the Ịgzarhjenya.
The Dream Garden was very impressive because it blended iconography of the god from a multitude of cultures and even from within sects of the Sabaji religion. My thoughts about how cool that was looped for about five minutes before the neural array let me think about something else.
My head my own again, I wonder what the workers in these new, High Wilds entertainment places think when they see us. The hypnotic menagerie of living dreams encountered while under substance makes it hard to remember that one is not the neural array. Our behavior must look odd to them. Do they think of us as willing experimenters succumbing to insanity for a few hours? Do they think that we come here to escape our humanity? A combination?
All I know is that the light dazzled me. Through a combination of the wine, ćukuseh, and the array, I thought that the wine’s perfume-dark scent came from salt-marsh plants that I was sucking into my elemental self. I knew I was human, and I knew that I could take the array off or signal for help, but I felt completely disassociated from myself.
The show on the screen overhead erupted into scenes of madness from various sacred texts, including the Shushei Enaharipui of the official Tveshi state cult to Enahari. We collectively saw the destruction of the First City begun by a woman in the grip of a strange fever called the many-winged hunger. As the city burned, I felt the water sizzle against my skin. When it flooded from the tsunami, I was sucking and pulling the buildings. I was the one who drowned those left behind.
“The electrodes make everything feel so weird,” a voice said beside me. “It is conditioning at its most extreme.”
I took another sip from the fluke of wine and turned. Moving felt so difficult because I was made of water. The dåmorai sitting beside me was a coworker, but le had arrived after the rest of us, so I did not know who it was. The dåmorai’s four wings flitted and buzzed independently of the person’s motions, and its chest was well-endowed like the Nakbur carvings of the monster — subdued and feminized despite its upright barb-nest, which according to a digital library record I looked up just now is how they breed, by injecting the females with sperm. The record actually mentioned that the Menarka Dream Garden has disallowed dåmorai patterns because the neural pattern requires stimulating lust, most individuals in the Dream Garden have not consented to a sex-oriented party, and there were problems in the first week of the club’s opening as a result.
The voice sounded familiar, as garbled by the neural pattern’s relay system as it was.
A spray of light swirled through the sky, and I heard crying birds. The water feedback made me repeat what I said next over and over, my voice cycling like a wave: “I know.”
Le curled up beside me on the bench. I felt ler heartbeat with my hand, which the relay propagated throughout my body. My consciousness dissipated into the next show, which was a tour through the ocean. This must have been why the ocean elemental was a featured choice this evening, as it felt wonderful.
I drank so much wine that I don’t remember much of what happened. We were all so drunk, and the ćukuseh left us euphoric. I have a vague memory of feeling sick after the show, like coming off of a boat. The coworker who played the dåmorai and I were on top of each other before we had even left the Dream Garden, and all I wanted was to have sex with lim — I could feel ler breasts — and we managed to make it to ler family’s home before we had sex in a small, cramped room. The bed smelled like pressed flowers and antique lace, rocket fuel and steel.
We both tasted like wine and drugs and food. From how much my abdomen hurts now, I think that we must have had drugged sex for at least an hour before we fell asleep. I don’t know why no one stopped us in that state. I have a vague memory of someone in the hallway, but all I truly remember is that it was the first time I had had sex since Kelis was alive.
Four hours later, I awoke and looked down at ler arms. This is when I realized that I had had sex with a coworker, and I still cannot write who le is without the shame paralyzing my hand. Unlike several hours ago, I cannot run from ler room, out of ler home, and through the streets of Galasu. Hopefully, substance touched ler brain enough that le won’t remember what happened.
Except I left my gyena behind.
Le must have touched my hair, and I need ritual purification. If I hadn’t been so under substance, I would have knotted the gyena to keep this from happening.