Prologue

   "It must be killing you to go this slow."  Her voice echoes in my ears.  This is a dream.  Or a memory.  A dream of a memory.  Definitely not the other way around.

 

   I'm asleep, and I give myself to the dream.

   I kiss and lightly bite her neck as she coos.  Her arms are wrapped around me, holding me close.  I smile and nuzzle my face in her neck.

   She rakes her nails across my back.  In response, I sink my teeth in her neck.

   Reality starts breaking down the dream; sunlight edges in around the windows and a part of me screams "No!  It was midnight!  No sun!  Go away!"  A child's tantrum, no matter how determined, how fierce, cannot keep The Real at bay.  The tighter I cling to the memory-dream, the faster it slips away.

   I give in, and as the last vestiges fade, I skip the dream ahead, to the post-coital snuggling, to that ephemeral moment where nothing exists outside her arms and all is contentment.

   I try to trick the dream in to staying, and it works for a moment.  Or maybe it doesn't and I only manage to trick myself in to thinking I'm still dreaming of that night a year ago.

   There's a knock at the door, and for a moment I'm uncertain whether it's my door in my apartment, or the door to the hotel room in the memory-dream.  I ignore it and whisper "I love you."

   The knock sounds again.  Louder now.  Decidedly not the hotel room door.

   I open my eyes to see my bedroom, dispelling the dream.  "What!" I shout at the door before it can knock again.

   The door answers back, "Wake up sleepy-head.  Got a package for ya."

   A courier service?  What time is it?  My phone says 07:12.  Great.  If there's one thing I hate about the summer, it's how early the sun rises, and the world with it.  "Alright.  I'll be there in a minute."  I throw on a t-shirt from the top of the "not-too-bad-yet" pile and a pair of shorts from the "mostly-clean" pile of clothes.

   The distorted delivery-woman on the other side of the door seems to be on the up and up.  I open the door and sign for the package; a small envelope containing a CD.  She walks back to her van, a job well done.

   I disconnect a laptop from my network and pop the disk in.  A video, encrypted with my public key and my contact Beni's private key, starts playing.  Beni, in the video, says he has a job for me: very lucrative and very hush, hush.  If I want more info, I am supposed to signal him before nine AM by walking down to a Turkish coffee shop near my apartment, and ordering a specific set of drinks.

   I figure the caffeine would be good whether I get a job out of it or not.  After a quick shower and a fresh t-shirt from the "mostly-clean" pile, I find myself sitting at a table with two cups of Turkish Coffee and an americano in front of me.  After I downed the second Turkish Coffee, I hear a voice behind me.

   "The blue rabbit is in the cow barn."

   I shake my head at Beni's overzealous security measures, and respond "Words to live by."

   "Words to live by," he agrees, then tells me there's a letter for me in the park.  Neither of us turn to face the other.  I sigh and sip the americano.  "Nine thirty," as he gets up and leaves.

   The caffeine kicks in about the time I get to the park.  I jog off the jitters until I collide with another jogger.  We apologize and agree neither of us were paying attention.  We go our separate ways and I notice a padded envelope on the ground.  It has my name on it.  A serendipitous accident, or Beni's messenger making it look like serendipity.

   I walk back to my apartment, envelope in hand.

World Tag: 
Ex Machina