– Cut the bullcrap, please. You’re making me want to clock you for all this shit already.
– No, that is the truth. An electronic book. But as far as I can tell it is – The best way to put it would be that it is an ultra-advanced prototype. Even the case I found it in was a high tech gem in its own right.
– So you’re almost getting me killed and criminally involved on account of an e-book? You throw my life in the balance with a gadget. Cock-sucking bastard. Anything else?
I force myself to say everything very slowly, to rest among words. I can feel the blood accumulate rapidly in my head and hands, which are balled into fists itching to fly. I don’t understand what The Infected One is doing, why he is perpetuating his craziness, the empire of his insanity. An e-book. I count four, inhale deeply, the entire list of anger management strategies but it just gets worse, a big, red balloon ready to burst. Nothing helps.
I rush forward, tackle him and we sprawl-tangle onto the thick carpet. Being much more violent and muscular than The Infected One I easily grab him by the lapels of his ridiculous robe. He holds up his arms in meager defense like an inferior dog presenting his belly. Straddling his obese torso I get my right fist way up behind my head ready to let it rain down on the sucker. He makes a small yelping noise, not a real word even. I gain a sliver of composure and resort to slapping him upside the head a few times. With gusto like slap-smack-slap-smack-slap, open palm against ruddy, alcoholic cheek. I can’t deny it: there’s a flipping grain of envy in this, which upsets me to no end but not in a violent vein either. You need a fight on your hands to get really riled, is the thing.
Then I stand up and give him a hand to get his fat ass up off the floor. He is clearly relieved I didn’t crack a can of genuine ass-whooping, which is what he had coming. He smiles so I smack him one more time for good measure so he knows not to fuck around with me in the future. Forget mouths, fuck a blackboard, in this world of ours hands are the real teachers. I don’t know why The Infected One keeps forgetting I mean business but I’m always happy to grant him a little refresher.
Not minding his bleeding lips he continues his earlier explanation.
– I’m sorry T. I didn’t mean to mess with your day. Anyway. This is not just an e-book I’m talking about, it’s an outrageously sophisticated e-book. Electronic book is not even the right expression really. The thing reaches into you, somehow. Listen, just take a seat on that nice leather couch for a minute and let me fix us a gin&tonic. You calm down and we have a look at it.
– I am calm, aren’t I? 15 minutes and I’m out of here. You never saw my face.
– 15 minutes. You want the gin on the rocks?
– No gin, amigo. A whiskey sour will do.
Seven meters to my south three black, low-slung, sleek couches are arranged close to one of the two Sea World grade unbroken window expanses. The carpet is even deeper pile than in the hallway, so minimally off-white that it is like the irritation in a dream before it turns into a nightmare. I had no idea that hotels have anything like master living rooms. My whole concept of hotels was endless bedrooms. The only furniture apart from the suprematist couches is an equally avant-garde sideboard along the northern Wall and a wooden table and its five insectile, metallic chairs set back a few meters from the couch. A sterile ensemble that is about as homely as the Great Mojave. All surfaces very light and matte, few signs of human habitation, almost post-human. I disapprove.
It takes a few more steps than I am used to to move from one part of a room to another in a regular middle-class apartment. The sense of space frictionlessly blends into a sensation of power, of money. The Infected One despite his present troubles, has had the better of the material world than me, it seems. I see how little I know about him after all.
He hands me a brimming old fashioned: the bottom is a sediment of brown-green grains, followed by ice and mashed lime pulp swimming in a lighter brown liquid, topped by a skinny cap of foam. I take a swig: the sour hits the side of my tongue then pulls the entire mouth towards its centre at the same time as the sweetness connects fires to my pleasure centers to tell my brain that this is good-good-good and the liquid burn of alcohol makes its way down the esophagus towards the stomach. Unfortunately I’m not one of those aficionados who can cast the thing in luminous phrases. But yes, drinking a good Whiskey Sour is a supreme experience, no doubt. It is the only drink that inspires in me any fantasies of becoming an alcoholic or at least making a real try. I suck air, let my tongue’s buds linger in the after-flame and ultimately take another sip, cold as the swirling rocks of ice.
– Good shit comrade. You’re not entirely useless.
– Don’t thank me, praise the Glenfiddich. 18 years. Like no other. Anyway, this reader, I’m telling you, it’s the future. But my guess is it’s only a proto-type or something like that. So whatever R&D department is working on this they must have all the blueprints and whatnot. I don’t know why they’re freaking out about this. Setting pros to my ass. Hounding me.
The Infected One has walked over to the floor-to-ceiling pane and is looking down at the street and promenade where US, Chinese, Indian and Japanese tourists are having a ball. Swans’ lives are being made unnecessarily difficult in return for which they get morsels of deluxe sandwiches, except for the few crack-brained Yankee tourists who also think it a good idea to let them get a taste of Swiss chocolate. It is June and the promenade is in full effect. Only far off behind Mount P somber droves of clouds can be seen to advance towards the city to soften the heat’s murderous grip in the very late afternoon. The Infected One studies the hoipolloi nervously, chewing at his nails.
– The first issue here is: is anybody even following you. If they’re following me trying only just to come here I guess the answer is probably yes. Second: how do you know this has anything to do with this prototype? And don’t try to frigging bullshit me. Third, assuming this all adds up the way you’re suggesting the reason is plain: industrial espionage you numb-nut. They don’t need to have the damn thing. They need nobody else to have it. So why don’t you show me what is we’re talking about.
– It’s right here. Come, see for your self.
He is pointing to the desk next to the window but doesn’t move an inch from his look-out post, forehead folded into an intricate wave-pattern of anxiety. His old-fashioned drained already, tinkling emptily with ice and sugar dregs.