26: Y Ddraig Goch
If Alonie narrowed her eye any more, it would have vanished. “Wait, what? You can’t be serious. Of course she was a hologram! What else could she be?”
“Well, as Lance just suggested, she could be what some people refer to as a fairy, although I prefer the more accurate term ‘aethereal entity’ myself. It’s best not to make any conclusive judgements until you have sufficient proof, of course.”
Alonie fell back into her seat and rolled her eyes. “Great. Just great. You hear that, Orpheus? Even the damned Malkuthians around here are crazy.”
Dante kept quiet. In truth, he wanted to pretend the whole conversation wasn’t happening. It was easier that way.
“I can assure you that I’m far from crazy,” replied Chris. “If you like, I could provide you with numerous articles of scientific documentation into aethereal phenomena, some dating back hundreds of years.”
“Yeah, Christof knows his stuff,” added Lance.
Alonie waved a dismissive hand. “Save it. I ain’t got time for all that science crap. Say, Shell, you think they have any decent films around here?”
Shelley might have mumbled something, but it was impossible for even Dante, with his mother’s hearing, to make out. Whatever it was, Alonie took it as an affirmative and started to gesture her way around the tabletop cellular. Soon enough, she was laughing at some dumb, simplistic animation about anthropomorphic animals hitting each other with oversized weapons.
“Well then,” said Chris, producing a small package from his coat pocket. “Would the rest of you care for a game of cards?”
Doyle Kennedy hoisted his synthesized ale aloft as if it were a trophy. “Awh man, this is the life,” he said, crystal-blue eyes aglow as they admired the miraculous illusion in front of them. Emily waited for him to take a sip and realise the replicated pretender could never hold up to the real thing.
Instead, he smacked his lips with a satisfied smirk and grabbed his hamburger. “Ron, man, you should be giving this a try,” he said through a mouthful of synthetic mush. “It’s well better than Sarry’s!”
Byron, slouched against the window, waved the offer away. “I am well aware of what the Cities pass as food,” he said. “I would prefer my nourishment natural. It is the flaws that give a thing its character. Perfection is homogenisation, and homogenisation is the doom of us all.”
“Eh, right,” said Doyle. “Well, your loss!” He turned to Joel, slumped in the chair next to him. “Gibbo?”
On any other day, Joel would have mocked Byron for his overwrought dramatics and ordered a beer and burger of his own, but today he was an unmoving spectre of a man, his cheeks gaunt, his eyes heavy with fatigue. Next to him, Kaori kept a firm and very visible grip on his hand. She eyed Doyle’s offer with a quiet malice.
“Nah, mate,” said Joel, his voice hoarse. “Too early for a brew.”
“Too early? Awh, man, you guys are getting lame in your old age.” He washed down a mouthful of food with his ale. “I were out longer than both of you, and you don’t see me moping about.”
Inside, Emily grimaced. The truth always came to light eventually.
Sarry’s is a local takeaway. Their meat is freshly grown!