He walks in and finds a seat in corner booth. He stretches his back working out a kink that has been following him since he woke up this morning. It’s dark, light enough to make out the silhouettes of the slim feminine figures hired to serve out the drinks, but they all walk past him, an illusion with its arms sitting impatiently on the table. After the third backless dressed server walks past him he leans back and settles into his seat and lets himself slip into the leather comfort of his seat. He presses the top of his tongue against the roof of his mouth and sighs, not with frustration or disappointment, but with the anticipation of an opioid after having spent a day trying to piece together the new whole of a world he’d abandoned eight years ago.
So he sits, the bar a collection of whispers and whiskeys. The TV at the front of the bar is playing the news, showing a political rally somewhere in the southern part of the city, shots of aggressive and disgruntled faces shouting into the faceless death glare of the Spec Force in charge of keeping whatever passes for keeping the peace in this city. The man reporting says the road has been closed off, preventing any traffic from having to see, consider, or care about whatever problem the young and not yet brokenly cynical have decided to pick at. The man reporting never says, to say it would be contributing to the fire hose of white noise on the network. The world doesn’t care. The world is elsewhere—in their jobs, in the chits they carry in their pocket, money tied to hash functions and incompetently wielded private keys in the hope of keeping what money they have as theirs.
Just the screen shows the first of the smoke grenades being cast into the crowd, one of the hostesses stops in front of his booth.
“What can I get you, sweetie?”
“Depends. What kind of Spiced Rums you got?”
She names off a list. All well, bottom shelf, or worse. It’s all stuff he used to drink in buckets back when he lived on the east coast, the stuff you drank when work wasn’t paying and you needed a way to fold the days into smaller shapes until it started again, worthy as mixers and post-sobriety enhancers, but nothing cherishable as a first step into liver-killing Eden. All this surprises him given the authentic feel of the leather, but then perhaps the cameras had already ran his financials when he came in, saw his net worth and decided not to bother his soft little brain with the names of things he couldn’t have.
He orders a 15 year single malt whiskey, a brand he remembers, but has now idea why. Something Scottish. The waitress corrects him on the name which means it’s probably got some following to it, which helps ease his mind about the choice.
The drink comes quickly and when he finally takes his first drink he lets the layered flavors of Christmas spices and chocolate burn into his tongue before finally swallowing. His lips pull back as the heat of the after burn rises into his nostrils, singing away the last of his connection with the day that now lays safely behind him.
When he’s finished with his first drink he looks up to see that his hostess has taken it upon herself to sit down opposite him. He finds himself pulling back slightly, confused by her slouched posture and the expectant look pouring for her eyes.
“Can I help you.” he tries to crush the hint of condescension in his voice, but can feel as the words leave his mouth that he has failed.
She apparently doesn’t notice, “What’s your name?”
Drifting his eyes sideways, expecting a large man in a suit to come from behind him and lay him out with a single punch to the back of the head, he replies cautiously, “Holland,” he forces his gaze back to her, “Why?”
“Your eyes aren’t real.” She stares at them, like trying to divine something.
Holland pulls away, adding a couple feet of distance between them, she doesn’t seem to mind.
“What in the hell makes you say that?”
“Because they’re not. They’re implants, when they were new they probably passed for real, but looking at the sides, the implants ruptured, a bit burnt out, there’s brown around the edges on the left side.”
“You know a lot about implants?” Holland asks, only a slight bitterness in his voice.
“My dad ran the company that makes them so sure, I know a bit. Mainly from the lawsuits that he carried home with him every night.”
“You’re dad works at Genetech?”
“My dad was Genetech,” her face cracks into a smile, “I grew up with him printing prototypes in our basement.”
“Mmmm,” he moves to grab his glass only to look down and remember its empty, “what’s he doing now?”
“Rotting in the ground mostly. He killed himself after the lawsuits started coming in.”
The brusqueness of the statement startles him, he catches himself and coughs into his hand in an attempt to play it off, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
She shrugs, “Turns out people are fine with the blind being able to see. They’re a little less fine with the blind having strokes and seizures because they got to see.”
“Mmmm, fancy that.”