|Stormcastle: And Other Fun Games With Cards And Dice|
|The Tooth Fairy War and Other Tales|
|The Wizard's House|
|The Dreaming Fire|
by David Tombale
It was a Tuesday, around eleven in the morning and already the sun was hot enough to make me sweat in my t-shirt. The house fought valiantly with its low model air conditioner but it expelled more hot air than cold.
It was in that environment that she entered the house. I had turned off the house’s empathic sensors so they wouldn’t signal my mood, and played smooth jazz while standing on the balcony. When I heard her enter I stepped inside just as she was placing her handbag on the low table in the dining room.
“Lunga,” she said, and I could hear the irritation that I remembered.
I walked toward her with my hands clenched. I took one of those hands and reached up for her neck. I had resolved to do it and I guessed she could feel the strength of that conviction through my tense muscles, but then she surprised me by leaning in for a kiss. When she pulled back a coy smile teased the edges of her mouth.
“You know when we went to Jamaica?” she said.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“And you bought that rum at the duty free store at the airport,” she said.
She led me to the bedroom, kicking off her high heels as we walked past the kitchen.
“We spent that night on that hotel balcony drinking until three, and just talking. Do you remember?”
I was struck by her shifting mood, watching her shrug off her pastel green suit.
“Do you remember?” she asked again.
“Yeah,” I said. “I mean I do.”
She laughed, and untucked her black polka dotted blouse and added it to the jacket on the floor showing off a white bra.
She crawled up on the bed and looked at me.
“Are you planning on standing there all day?” she asked.
I don’t know what compelled me to approach her, the whole thing was twisted but I did. I got on the bed and we lay there side by side staring at each other. That same teasing smile was on her face and before I realized what was happening she got on top of me and kissed me once, then twice then pried my lips apart with her tongue. I didn’t think to stop her, and was about to raise my hands to her shoulders when a siren started blaring.
“No, no,” I said.
“What’s going on?” she shouted.
“No, damn it! I still have three minutes left.”
“Lunga..” she said, then the wall behind her rippled and she vanished.
“No,” I said, slapping the bed in frustration.
“Did you have a nice time Mr, Lunga?” a man asked pleasantly stepping out of nowhere as easily as if he’d opened a door.
“What was that?” I asked him getting to my feet and poking him in the middle of his pressed white shirt. “She wasn’t like that that day. That wasn’t her.”
“Oh it was,” the man replied calmly, his blonde hair unruffled and neatly slicked back. “While the module takes things from your memory our new upgrades give you an idealized version of people and places you know. So that was the best version of her, at least in your mind.”
I ran a hand over my shaved head and glared at the AI, but knew it was ultimately futile. It didn’t care how I felt.
“Are you dissatisfied with the simulation? We could always offer you one of our older modules.”
I wanted to bark at him. To tell him that of course I wanted the old module, but my lips still felt heavy with the pressure of her kiss. I had wanted this experience on my terms. I turned to the bed and saw the dishevelled sheets.
“No, the new module is fine,” I said.
“Excellent, then I’ll make you an invoice,” the AI said.
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