28: An Illusion of Paradise
Dante dropped his bag and shuffled over to the window. He shared Chris’s sentiment. Unless he locked himself in his room and blocked out the windows, he was trapped. The truth was everywhere.
A lithe young woman ran laughing down the gold-paved street, her golden hair billowing in the summer breeze as three muscular men in tight shorts and little else gave chase. Sauntering in the opposite direction, hips a-swaying, a boy with leaf-green hair followed their dance with a gleam of mischief in his eyes. Catching Dante’s gaze, the boy smiled, extending a sepia-brown hand as if to beckon him down from the safety of his apartment.
Dante shook his head and the boy was gone, vanished like a fleeting dream—because that was what Avalon, with its clear, blue sky and calm, gentle sea, was: a perfect, unblemished vision that could only exist in fantasy. A world three steps away from reality. An illusion of Paradise.
Joel’s whine cut across the lounge. “Mate, where’re all the instruments? I’ve been through this thing, like, five times over already.”
“Instruments?” asked Chris. “Why would you want something like that?”
“To play music?”
“Why go to all that effort when they have a perfectly reasonable selection for you to consume?”
“Yeah, I looked at that. They don’t even have the latest Death Bastard album.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little violent? You should try something calmer. Something to soothe your soul.” Chris lifted his voice again, “Computer, play Pineapple Fantasy’s ‘Algorithm’?” As an electronic hum filled the lounge, he turned back to Joel and said, “This never gets old.”
It took about ten seconds of the jaunty, uplifting tune, with its synthesised chimes and choral cheer, for Joel to bleat out in abject terror and order the torture to stop. Even Dante, without the slightest care for music, had to agree that he made the right choice.
“Mate, don’t tell me you listen to that crap.”
Chris chuckled. “When I said ‘it never gets old’, I meant that they’ve been listening to that for longer than any of us have been alive.”
“Because it’s what they do. They don’t question it. Nobody does. Which is why you won’t find any guitars or drum kits or anything else in that vendor, or any other. They don’t, for one minute, feel the need to challenge the status quo. Welcome to the Future. Please enjoy your stay.”
Joel perched himself on the edge of a chair. His face had drained of what little colour it had. “I thought we were supposed to have everything here? Like, proper Paradise an’ stuff.”
“Give people unlimited choice and they will choose nothing, for when you have everything at your fingertips, nothing has value. Now you know why we don’t go handing out every little miracle.”
“Mate, if this is where you came from, I don’t blame you for coming to Torsten. This place is, like, an actual nightmare!”
They like their 70’s psychedelic trance.