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101

There's not a room but a garden behind the door, the night garden, crickets chirp softly, the air is fresh and cool, the dense grass is under my feet.

What did I expect after all? The hotel room with a squeaky bed and sheets damp due to frequent washes? This is what's good about virtuality: one can make the house's inner space as big as desired.

I walk towards the lantern light in the grass, my movements are slow and sluggish, drowsiness have almost retreated but the lead-heavy exhaustion have come instead.

I see the small house, either a good 'dacha' or a modest cottage, nobody around. The lantern shines lonesomely and sadly. For a moment it seems to me that merciful Madam decided to leave me alone. No, hardly. Compassion is one thing but the business is always on the first place.

I sit by the lantern this is an antique kerosene lamp in net case. Those are used to descend underground. Into the deep.

The tiny moth circle around the lamp, bounce against the glass powerlessly trying to break into the light. Humans are much more stupid than the moth, they always manage to find a fire to burn their wings, that's why they are humans.

I don't hear the steps, just the hands lie on my shoulders, unsurely, shyly as if accustoming.

Is it always so silent here? I ask.

No.

I shiver. Even her voice sounds familiar.

It depends on the guests.

I like silence, I say, still not turning around.

Me too, she agrees, maybe in order to make a good impression on me, maybe sincerely.

I dare to turn around.

She looks just as on that picture. A short skirt, not a 'sexually' short one, just comfortable summer clothes, smoke grayish blouse, gray sandals on her feet, dark hair tied up with a narrow band on her forehead. The girl looks at me seriously, examining me as if I'm not the customer whom she has to serve but really just a guest whom she might accept or kick out into the night.

I was called Gunslinger all day long today but you better call me Leonid.

She nods in agreement.

And if you don't mind, I add. If possible, I'll call you Vika.

The girl stays silent for so long that I decide that I have hurt her accidentally. But finally she just asks:

Why? Do I remind you somebody?

Yes, I confess. I'll forget anyway and will call you by that name. Let's better avoid this.

Okay, she agrees sitting down by my side, outstretches her hands and warms them above the lantern as if above the fire, I get used to names easily.

Me too.

We sit in silence. I feel falling down slowly deeper and deeper

Vika

Yes, Leonid?

Will I look very stupid if I fall asleep now?

I don't know, she says, Was it a hard day?

The hard ones are still ahead.

There's a bed in the house.. as you understand.

I nod. I don't want to stand up and leave alive silence for the dead one.

But if you want, I'll bring you comforter.

Thanks, this would be just great.

She rises and I gather remains of my strength.

Abyss, I'm not yours let me go , Abyss

Firstly, I went to the bathroom. Luckily the suit and the helmet have long enough wires. Then I lagged to the sofa and fell on it throwing the pillow aside: the head in the helmet is lifted high enough even without a pillow. My neck will grow numb by the morning, but I don't want to leave now.

Vika, turn the deep on I whispered to Windows-Home. The colorful whirl follows and I'm in the deep again.

What did you say? Vika stands by me. The one that is alive almost

No, nothing.

I take the comforter, spread it out on the grass and lie down. The girl sits by my side. I look up at the stars, they are so close, so alluringly bright. I lack just transparent light wings to fly up and crash against invisible glass

Vika, aren't you lonely here, in this nook?

Why do you think it's a nook?

The stars are too bright.

No. I like it here

She lies by my side and I shift on the comforter a little to give her more space.

Do you like the sky? asks Vika.

Yes. I like to look at the stars. But I have no idea what their names are.

Why would they need the names we give them Vika touches my hand.

Look, the star have fallen. Just above us.

We could go and search for it, I say seriously. Vika doesn't answer right away and I understand with horror that I'll have to rise now.

No, she decides. Your feet are failing you Gunslinger. We'll look for it in the morning. It'll just cool down by that time and it'll be possible to pick it up.

It's too much light in the morning, I note. Better tomorrow in the evening.

You're strange, says the girl quietly. Okay. Let's look for it tomorrow.

Had you ever found a fallen star?

Vika stays silent but I can feel how she shakes her head.

Virtuality took the sky from us, I whisper.

You understood it too?

Of course. The world leaves into the deep, into reflection of reality. Why would one fly to the Moon or to Mars if any planet is reachable here and now? The passion have gone. The interest have gone too.

But computer technologies are developing rapidly.

Oh really? "Octium" is not more than just very cool "686" I purposefully call Pentium-Pro by unaccepted name. Nothing new was invented in last five years, we are just marking time.

Vika laughs softly

Oh geez an argument about technological developments Leonid, you're in the brothel, remember?

I know You're bored?

No, but I just have weaned of the talks like this

She pauses then slightly touches my cheek with her lips.

Sleep. You falter, Lenia.

I don't argue, I don't want to argue with her.

All the more, she is right.

I close my eyes and fall asleep instantly.


| Labyrinth of reflections | c