Reads: 162

Aerope threw the wrapper down the wastechute, turned on the autowash, and left the bathroom. The hall was long and narrow, thanks to land ordinances that forced architects to design on smaller and more awkward land plots. The railing that formed the right-hand wall (and subsequently kept the house’s residents from falling into broken necks) curled slender white vines up to the sandalwood banister. Her hand trailed along its top. Her mind wandered. She suddenly remembered that the trainer was awaiting her return. The thought was less than exciting. Her feet plodded down the dizzying spiral staircase and back into the basement gym.

Why did Eryx always get so worked up? Sometimes he became absolutely hysterical, and she’d had to give him sedative injections. It was tricky to stick a wailing, panicky six-year-old, but she’d never used a dreambar. (Never before, that is.) It just...unsettled her. Even now she felt sick that she’d done it.

“Hey, come back here!” the trainer was giggling. A twitch in the image. “Hey, come back here!” Twitch.

She got on the treadmill. God, her knees hurt all of a sudden. That kind of dull ache that burrows into the tendons and wedges underneath the kneecap, and won’t go away.

I’ll get some pain relief when the cardioresistance is done.

“I’m back,” she announced flatly.

The image twitched, and suddenly the man looked fresh.

“Are you ready!” he said. He sounded like a cheerleader.

Wait, what?

The image glitched slightly, and the trainer said, “Are you ready!” again. Exactly the same.

“...Yes?” she said.

“Oh-KAY!” he gushed. “First we’re gonna do some yogabend. Now, I want you to lay out on the mat--”

Aerope smacked her forehead. Of course. If you were gone too long, the Network connection would spazz and sometimes restart whatever it was you’d been watching.

“--and we’re gonna do some nice easy stretches first.--”

And you couldn’t fast-forward through an exercise session.


“--Go ahead and do what’s called the Shining Warrior. You just sort of lean back and do the splits. And you have to really pull your legs up, like this.”

“Renne: turn it off,” she said.

The screens froze in disbelief.

“Cancel exercise session?” the computer repeated.


“Cancelling an exercise session will not prevent you from being charged.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“The city will note that you did not complete your session for today, and you may receive inconvenient messages later. Still cancel?”


The screens struggled to swallow this, finally succeeded, and turned to silver mirrors. The treadmill slunk under the floorboards. Everything reset to normal. Without looking around at the millions of duplicates surrounding her, Aerope walked to where the dress and shoes still lay on the floor. She picked them up.

They still smelled faintly of Dexios.

Submitted: February 16, 2013

© Copyright 2022 Iskah E Shirah. All rights reserved.


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