I get into the bathroom and turn the knobs. The water that comes out is instantly hot and steamy and beautiful. It trickles down off a series of smooth, dark rock ledges and slips and spillways. The rock looks like obsidian without the razor edges. The shower room’s like a cave under a hot spring, only there’s a huge black shower curtain running the length of the shower so people using the sinks and towel area have some privacy from the people in the waterfall area.
The shower’s part of one of the Palace’s Gathering Rooms, public spaces where lower-level Suitors can come and revel. There’s all sorts of shit going on in here. It’s a huge room, standard red walls and carpet, fluted tables and chairs and couches with pillows on them, big vaulted ceilings and windows that look out on the Enchanted Forest. The two large bathrooms are off to either side of the main space.
I sign into the bathroom on the left, get the shower to myself, get the water going. It’s nice.
I don’t need any sex today. I might go see Harleigh Rose later, but for now I just want to feel the water drying on my body and towel myself off and go for a walk in the Enchanted Forest later. I’m a 67 year old man who has the body of a 25-year-old, and just the sensation of being able to walk without pain is insane. I lived with a bad knee for almost twenty years. You can always tell who the older immersants are, even though everyone looks twentysomething— they’re obsessed with physical movement. They’re also on their Tags way less.
I’ve downloaded and played every sport there is, even obscure shit like cricket and pok-a-tok. Haven’t excelled at all of them, but I’ve tried ’em. I’ve climbed mountains, dived the deepest trenches of the ocean, flown in outer space using my own two arms, and raced across deserts at 100 mph using my own legs. I’ve hang-glided, base-jumped, high dived, free solo’d, anything you can think of.
They say the Maya is essentially heaven. They’re right. We’re immortal and we can do anything we can dream of, all at the speed of a thought. It is like living in a dream, a great one. No restrictions, no oppression. You can live out dreams and ambitions you didn’t even know you had. Unless you’re a Repentant, in which case you’re restricted socially, but that’s not my problem.
But today, I just want to unwind. I just want to sit in the shower and think and feel good about existing.
I get out of the bathroom, lock the door behind me, go get a drink from the nearest bar.
When I get back sipping my gin and tonic, there’s a big guy waiting at the sign-in screen in front of my bathroom and he looks upset. I don’t know why they don’t have us use our Tags for sign-in here, but there’s a lot about the Auburn Palace I don’t understand.
“Someone changed the code,” the guy says to me like it’s my fault. He’s got an effeminate voice and a balding head and he’s fat, which is a personal choice around here. Maybe he’s doing a role play. “You were just in here, right?”
“Yeah, first come, first serve,” I said.
“Someone went in there after you, though.”
I signed in with the number I’d picked — 6710.
The guy is right, there’s four Tritons in there, probably getting ready to use the shower for themselves. They’re already in their towels, doing a little pre-shower flirting in the bathroom space, sitting and talking.
I introduce myself to them and tell them what’s going on. I tell them about hte fat guy outside.
They roll their eyes.
“That’s Bruce,” they say. “He’s got to keep his heavyspace body for a week becuase of missing some Commons thing. He’s all pissed cause we won’t let him in. I can’t believe he ratted on us.”
“That’s your guys’ business, but I signed up for this shower, and — “
One of them removes his towel and he’s already aroused. I try not to get distracted and keep explaining. Fucking Tritons. They think they can do anything.
Through the course of my explanation, all of them remove their towels and by the time I’m done they’re showing their erections to each other and starting a gentle circle jerk. They ignore me. I just excuse myself. They can have it first, I guess.
“Look, fellas,” I say. “Why don’t you enjoy yourselves and I’ll just come back?”
They open the curtain and disappear into the steam.
Tritons are full of themselves. They’re supposed to be male Anodynes but they’re all lazy queers for the most part. The only way a guy can become a Triton is if he gets endorsed by an Anodyne, so even though the Tritons were invented so straight female Suitors would have a male ideal to indulge with, a lot of the Tritons are exclusively gay and have no interest in women other than befriending them and using them to their benefit. They get their names from the male version of the Greek Siren, which is what some people call female Anodynes.
I get out of the shower area of the bathroom and into the changing room area of the bathroom which is lit with all this soft warm light and all these closets with all sorts of clothes hanging in them. Very soft-looking changing rooms, same auburn color as everything else in the Palace.
There’s a girl in one of the changing rooms, little thing with firm little ass, and she’s got her top off and is pulling on a skirt. She’s got tan skin and big, pale areolas that make me think of bologna.
It’s an Anodyne, obviously, little Tom Petty-looking thing with big teeth, but she’s really cute in a weird way, and she’s grinning at me with all those big teeth. She left the thing open on purpose.
“Hi,” I say, maybe a little too enthusiastically. I was wrong about not needing sex today, I guess.
She doesn’t respond, just finishes putting on her blouse and flounces past me and out the main door. There’s another group of girls doing their hair in one of the mirrors, watching one of the girls show them how. Looks like a mixture of female Suitors, since none of them are wearing a corset.
That’s just not fair, I think to myself of the little tease, but whatever. I got plenty of bad memories to pay Anodynes with. Maybe I’ll see Harleigh Rose later for sure.
I go out into the main room and mind my own business, just chill on my Tag. Fat Bruce is gone. I feel bad for him getting excluded, but he’ll be back to normal within a week.
It’s weird not having to work on anything or needing money. I’m truly free. I watch a compilation of toddlers reacting to Salt N’ Vinegar chips. I check out my favorite sub in the Commons — Megalophobia — where there’s a giant polar bear menacing an iceberg full of tiny penguins. I hang out in a deadly thunderstorm on top of a castle tower, drinking tea with a group of four, an Exclusive Suitor and his three bitches. One of the girls is freaking out, she keeps latching onto the Ex and screeching “Hold me, hold me!” but she’s so scared she can’t talk right so it comes out like, “Comey, comey!” Weird.
“She’s scared of heights,” the guy says. The lightning flashes and the rain lashes and the wind howls. The girl screeches and the guy laughs at her.
When I get back into the bathroom, the Tritons have the shower curtains closed. I can’t hear them over the roar of the water.
“Hey guys,” I say, my voice echoes. “I’ve been more than generous. Wrap it up.”
They yell something back that sounds like, “Affirmative!” and I hear the water shut off. The floor is wet and the air is heavy with steam. Nice and warmed up. I’ll reset it before I start my shower, though. I don’t want my bare feet touching their leavings. Just cause things like disease and germs don’t exist anymore doesn’t mean it’s not unpleasant and rude to not clean up after yourself, which I know the Tritons won’t do.
I don’t have a problem with gayness, just for the record. It’s not my thing, but to each their own. Still, rude is rude.
I go outside and wait for them to get their chiseled asses out. They appear a minute later, dry and back in their tuxes. One suggests they go to Studio 54 in 1977. The rest agree and they’re off through the nearest portal. They don’t acknowledge me or say thanks. Not surprising.
I reset the bathroom, turn on the waterfalls again, step into the steam. I could stay here all day. I sit down in one of the sitting sloops and shut my eyes. I’m in there a long time. I don’t wrinkle up. I lose track of time.
I think about Harleigh Rose. She has tattoos that change by the hour, and two front teeth stick out a little more than the rest of them. She’s 38 but looks 21. Dark hair that changes color by the minute. Green to blonde to black again. She fucks like a stallion runs. She laughs like babies laugh. She sings like salvation itself.
I won Alliance with her after we went elk hunting together one winter. She’s a deadshot, without even downloading anything. She grew up in Montana. The first Lullaby she ever sang me was a Dashboard Confessional song. I’d never heard it before but Anodynes don’t sing you the songs you want to hear, they sing the songs you need to hear.
I finish the shower and towel off. I pull out wardrobe and dial on my Suitor suit.
Out in the gathering space, everyone’s in a naked cuddle puddle and singing a song together. A couple guys are playing guitars and one’s got a cello and one’s got a violin.
The song’s by a guy named Gregory Allen Isakov. A Repentant. Repentants have been a hot commodity lately. No one wants to admit it, though. They just love taking ownership of Repentant’s shit. I couldn’t personally care less. I just like a good song and a good fuck.
Come down, come down, sweet reverence
unto my simple house and ring, and ring
The first couple full season cycles after I immersed, the only music I heard anywhere was all sorts of hip hop and soul and funk and this assortment of other shit from Africa and Asia and the Middle East and everywhere else that I’d never even heard of. Then slowly the Repentants started trickling in as their True Earth sentences wound down, and with them came their music. They tried to scrub out the white but the white came through anyway.
The Repentants owned culture before the Veil, or at least that’s the belief in the Commons. Everyone knows it’s more complicated than that but the rest of us got a dope-ass deal so we just let it happen. Story of humanity. But we still like their shit, same as a Muslim terrorist who goes to McDonald’s, so we just claim it as our own and call it good.
I’ve never heard of this Isakov guy but I take a minute to download his catalogue. This is probably the best song. It’s a pretty melody. Heartland shit.
I sing along as I make my way to the main exit portal. I think about Harleigh and her two front teeth and her freckles and her laugh.
Rain like silver, rain like gold
Turn these diamond streets back into coal