Thorsten Nesch

– Storyteller –

Lethbridge, 2112 – 09. Village Centre Gym

It took me half an hour to go to the gym through the canyons of concrete and glass, straight down 13th Street, by the old Logan Boulet Arena, nestled in midst the sky-risers as an architectural oasis of the past, where people built wide instead of high.

I passed the endless storefronts of cafes, dance clubs and social houses, all the way until the Village Centre Gym appeared, eight floors high stretching to Stafford Drive like a giant rubber boot box, the wet gray building surrounded by the illuminated and shiny downtown towers, swallowed from the 25th floor on by the rain and the night.

The constant swooshing of wet clothes from the thousands of people around me coming from their gyms or going to their shifts, most of them holding their devices in front of them, pouring cold light into their faces and over their gray clothes.

First thing I did, when I came to work, was showing my tattoo to my boss, so he changed my schedule for me. One hour less a day!
«Good for you», he mumbled.

My work buddy Robert next to me on the elliptical congratulated me. We’ve been working out beside each other for over a year now, whenever our shifts overlapped. Chatting with him was always nice. Made the time go by faster.

«So what are you doing with the extra hour?», he asked.
«Frankly, I don’t know», I kept my eyes on the news ticker on one of the movie theater sized projection screens hanging from the ceiling of the gym. They showed live online battles of the best ZZ-gamers, PSAs and news.

Our gym was the second-largest in Lethbridge: each floor with 240 rows of 60 ellipticals and treadmills, running permanently in changing shifts 24/7. Some of my colleagues followed the changing pictures and stories on the flat screens; others listened to music, audio books or extended their vocabulary. Last year there was a guy in front of us learning one of the old languages: Spanish. Robert asked him why he would try to learn a dead language, if he didn’t plan to become a time traveler, and he answered, that it would make as much sense as anything else. He was half way there, we figured. He’d see the sun soon.

Rob spoke without looking at me, «I tell you what you will do with your extra hour: you will play Justicia one more hour a day!»
He referred to my favorite game, an online open world, open source, where Justine, a detective, had to solve all sorts of crimes.
«I don’t know.»
«I know! I know for you, too. You have a crush on Justine.»
«Get out.»
«Then tell me why most of your cases take place in the past?»
«At least I see the sun.»
«Not the real sun.»
«Better than no sun, ever!»
He smirked, «Your Justine shines in shorts and shirt.»
«The sun!»
«Pfh, in black and white.»
«And still better than no sun…»
«Justine…hmmmh.»
«Stop it!»
We could go on forever like that, sometimes I couldn’t believe we didn’t meet earlier, in school, like old buddies, that’s how close we were.

To his right, the woman got off her treadmill and walked by in front of us. Her skin was shimmering, reminding me of the dew on the grass in an early morning sun in Justicia. Sweat glued black streaks of hair to her skin and down her neck.

As soon she was out of sight, Rob blurted, «Next time I asked her out.»
«You say that every day! You’ll never pull through with that.»
«She’s really… I swear, really, next time…»
«Never!»
«Oh, and you? For you, Justine is more real.»
«Ha ha.»

He yawned and pointed behind him, «She is a class of her own. I don’t even know what she’s doing here. She should be hired, I would hire her, or… She should be with somebody… even be married.»
«Not with you my friend», I seconded his yawn, «What do you want to do with her on a date? Did you win a free coffee card somewhere?»
«No.»
«You want to take her home for a bowl of chicken paste?»
He cleared his throat.
«Exactly», I said as if he had silently agreed with me, and maybe he did.

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