Thorsten Nesch

- Storyteller -

09. Taking a rickshaw down Stafford Ave. to the Cloud Hotel shuttle at the South Pillar

Shutting the door to my apartment for the last time, let me linger, let the few memorable moments of the last years wash by as if I was chasing a fleeting dream.

Over my shoulder hung the backpack with some clothes, hygiene products and the plaque of my grandfather; the keys I still held in my right hand, and the knife, the fork and the spoon in my left. I didn't know what I was waiting for, realizing the lack of fond memories. I should have had more. There was not a distant sense of fear leaving this place, not one sentimental emotion, nothing held me back. The eerie silence behind the white-crated wood echoed the emptiness in my head.

I placed the cutlery in front of Rastan's door, it was always good to have a second set. I decided not to ring the bell. There was no need for him to get up since I didn’t know his shift schedule at the gym this week nor the hours of his glorious freelance job. His bloodshot eyes from cock shot deleting wasn't the last image of him I wanted. He'd find my cutlery soon enough, and he would know what that meant.

On the way to the gym, I permanently reassured myself that I didn’t forget anything I wanted to have with me during my last 24 hours until I reached the point of no return without missing my shuttle. Now it felt like a relief to me.

Jaqueline had sent me my travel itinerary yesterday as promised. At 1 PM sharp I should be at the south pillar, the shuttle would leave half an hour later. Arrival time at the hotel was shortly after 2 PM.

First, I thanked my boss at the gym who received already a notice from Afterlife Inc. and knew about my plan. He was very understanding about the situation and congratulated me on my decision—even telling me he himself could hardly wait to go on his journey and walk the plank.

Next I went to my old workout station. A young woman had taken my shift, she was chatting with Juan. He didn't notice me, he only had eyes for her and tonight probably a stiff neck. I waited for a natural break in their conversation.

«Hey Juan.»

«Oh, hi, hey Arthur, this is Madchen, Madchen, Arthur.»

We hi-ed us. Then I said, «I just came to say goodbye.»

«Whoa, what? Already?»

«Yes, emergency.»

He stopped his treadmill and got off, «Your brother?»


Juan walked over to me, «Will he make it? With your help?»

«It looks like it.»

«Good, that's good. Come on, pal, sweaty men hug!»

His arms enveloped me, his body warm from the workout, and I smelled him. However, it felt good, it felt like something I was missing for a long time. Too bad this was the occasion. We had never hugged like this before, tighter, longer.

Over his shoulder I saw Madchen, she was watching the main screen with the news and couldn't care less about us. Her ponytail whipped rhythmically to her movements.

Juan patted my back, and it was he who ended the hug, finishing it with a fist bump against my biceps saying, «Now have yourself the best time of your life and walk the plank like a champ.»



«I'll walk the plank like a champ!»


He was looking at me, and I knew what he was thinking. We talked a lot about this hug, that this hug is stronger and longer than usual hugs: the death hug. The hug people give others after they decided to walk the plank.

«I'll think of you», he said.

«Me too, thanks.»

«Sounds about right, you always think of you.»

«Shut up.»

We laughed our last laugh together.

I turned around, and he jumped back on his treadmill, then I marched down the aisle to the exit. I hadn't planned the death hug, I don't know where that came from, maybe a mutual product of the final energy between two colleagues.

: : :

It felt like I had a mission, a goal in life. And if you have a mission you walk different, you develop a tunnel vision: faces disappear, contrasts fade, individuals blur into an ambiguous crowd, sounds melt into each other and became the big white noise they truly are.

I couldn't wait to get to the shuttle, to check into my hotel room with the famous cloud-ocean view and enjoy a bottle of wine or anything else I was never able to afford down here, to finally get out, away from this monsoon rain today.

On the way down the East ramp to the rickshaws at Stafford station, I bumped accidentally into a man, and he yelled at me, «Hey, you can at least say sorry.»

«Sorry, I am out of sorrys», I responded, not even caring if he could hear me or not. What did it matter? What did anything matter? Anytime? Everything seemed so unimportant in the new light, except the one thing, and the one person, I tried not to think of.

People relaxed the moment they entered the station with its long roof, folding their umbrellas, shaking the water off their raincoats and the tension off their everyday.

I had to queue for a while until I could board the next 2-peddler rickshaw. Two peddlers moved four people, one peddler two passengers. They were out in the open, so the rain could cool them down, while their guests were sitting in their tight compartments protected from the weather.

Leaving the station nobody talked anymore, and the open devices smeared their lights on the curved plastic ceiling above me. The next rickshaw was ten metres ahead of us, another one behind us, barely identifiable through the tiny window by the ghoulish glow behind the peddlers.

I closed my eyes. What was Minna doing now? Was she plotting her next approach? Was she talking somebody out of it right now? Did this ever work? I should have asked her that. Whatever. What would it matter now?!

Nobody said a word. While I was daydreaming, the other three—obviously also strangers to each other—deviced their time away.

Each station was announced by the peddler on the left. His white T-shirt stuck to his body, every muscle visible, ripped, peaking in health. Usually I would have made some small talk, but today I didn't feel like it. At least the rickshaw peddlers were paid well for their hard work, some suburbianites even gave them tips.

By the time we reached South Pillar station, the other riders had changed. Quietly I edged out of the rickshaw and made my way to the exit.

A gang of twenty kids ran screaming down the other side of the ramp. Their piercing voices bounced off the walls penetrating the ears of many people who were scolding them. The kids laughed it off. What a monument of lightness in life. The unburdened span of one's time: childhood. Little do they know. That is their blessing, and the curses of disgruntled strangers their medals of honor.

My eyes followed them as they were trickling through the crowd of people waiting in queues for their rickshaws to work or going home.

: : :

Halfway down the ramp I heard Minna calling my name and her hand landed on my shoulder.

I kept walking despite the twitch in my stomach. How could this be? She was breathing heavily, she must have run after me. I didn't know what to make of her appearance. Did she find me by chance?

«Hi Minna», a slight jerk with my arm freed my shoulder.

«Where are you going?», and without waiting for an answer, she repeated the question in a stern manner, «Where are you going?»

«You probably know.» Again the twitch.

«No, I don't.»

«You do, I bet, you do.» Do I feel something for her? Or is it just physical attraction?

During the whole time she was looking at me.

«Let's talk», she said. She trusted everybody else not to run into her.

«Okay, how did you find me?»

Minna hesitated for a moment, which is what people do when they weigh the pros and cons of a white lie. «You pushed my call away, but the video freeze-frame told me where you were. I counted one and one together.»

That sounded honest. «Then start counting again, we are 200 metres away from the shuttle entrance.» I reached the end of the station ramp and made my first step, «199.»

She spun around, walking backward in front of me, «Arthur, please, wait…»

«No.» My 55er vibrated.

«Five minutes.»

I checked the message and said to her, «No, no five minutes, it's too late», it was a reminder of the bill for the dentist ceiling, too late, I thought, and I tucked my device away, «I have to be there on time, I want to be there for my brother.»

Unannounced, she ripped my backpack from me. It surprised me how fast that happened, how easily she did that.

«What the…? What… give it back to me!»

«Forget it. Hear what I have to tell you.»

Instead of walking toward the pillar, we circled each other, the people passing us by left and right.

My hands formed fists. «Hear what I have to tell you! Give me back my bag!»

People started noticing us, two were filming, screening us live on lethnet most likely.

Demonstratively, she wrapped my bag with both of her arms while moving away from me slowly.

«Minna!» I said out loud.

Some guy, who had heard her name, yelled, «Minna, you can do better than him.», followed by laughter around us.

She inched backward, hunched over my belongings. About half a dozen gawkers were filming us by now, and it wouldn't surprise me if one of them had called the police. Maybe that exactly was her plan: involving me in some sort of situation that would hinder me from doing what I had to do, maybe she would even go that far as to tell the SUCU that I attacked her. After all, I had yelled at her. In front of witnesses.

Time for a change of plans.

«Keep it. The plaque from my grandfather is in there. Hang it over your kitchen table», I shouted, and with that I turned around and started running to the pillar, to the entrance for the shuttle, ignoring her pleading and calling after me. Her voice got louder, she had to run fast, she was closing in on me. The pedestrians I had to dodge and push aside formed an alley for her!

Before I reached the door, the sensors detected my device, recognized my appointment and opened for me, so I could slip in while they fell tight shut behind me.

Instantly I turned around and witnessed how the sliding plexiglass closed between us, like in a dramatic movie moment, muffling her voice beyond recognition, my backpack dangling from her hand, and I could read my name on her lips.

A female AI voice over me announced, «Welcome, Arthur, please check in at counter IV. The shuttle waits for you in Bay 2.»

I waved at Minna, I don't know why, and she waved back and shook her head. Was she crying?

I didn't want to know.

: : :

Ignored by the numerous guards staring straight out of their uniforms, I marched over to Counter IV. An employee already waited for me, her tie and the uniform jacket were ashen and her white shirt shiny like silk, «Arthur?»


«Afterlife Inc. sent you.» Her gunmetal grey lipstick emphasized her thin lips. The eyeliner and the fake eyebrows were the same colour.


«How are you doing?»

«Bad.» What wasn't an exaggeration, especially after leaving Minna the way I did. The way I had to. Still, her eyes and the tears I didn't leave, they were very much with me, much more than I expected, so much, I imagined even her tears green.

«Good. Bad is good. You soon will feel better. This going to be exceptional for you, an amazing adventure!»

«I hope so.»

«No doubt, believe me. Where's your luggage?» She was pointing to a scale, where I was supposed to place it.

«My… appointment is tomorrow. Not much need for anything really.»

«Ah, we have a keener. Okay then, your shuttle is waiting for you at bay B level 3. Follow this hallway, and you find the entrance to the shuttle on your left side. Right beforehand is the screener, the routine travel screens for fever, bacteria, viruses, implants, drugs, soil, plants, chips and sharp objects, takes only seconds, then you can go. You don't feel sick in any way?»


«Sure? You seem a little stressed.»

«All good, I am just excited, curious, maybe nervous.»

«That is normal. No worry, it will all work out. So far nobody came back.»

«Oh good.»

«Right after the screener you take the stairs one flight up to the second level where your shuttle compartment is.»


«In the compartment you have seat 16. A small snack and refreshments are complimentary.»

«That's nice, I'm kind of thirsty.» After the running.

«There you go. Everything else will be explained to you on board by your portier. Have a good trip and a great time.»

My device vibrated.

«No worry, Arthur, take a look. It should be your travel code.»

I woke my 55 up.

She continued, «Can't be anybody from outside the building. You entered the netfree zone when you came in.»

She must have seen my face derail, expecting a message from Minna. It was indeed the code.

«No lethnet here?», I asked.

«No, not here or up there, from here on it is hotelnet.»


«Anything else?»

«No, thank you.»

«You are very welcome, Arthur.»

The walls of the hallway were lined with pictures of the heroes of the past, the present and the future. Quite some people signed up for their journey years ahead of their appointment, and celebrities lend their faces to the public relations departments of their chosen travel agencies—surely not entirely unselfish, with their careers in mind.

Good-looking women and men with shiny teeth smiled at me. Ambient music trickled quietly from hidden loudspeakers.

The same female AI voice came on, «Prepare for the screener ten metres ahead of you. Please place your feet in the designated areas, stand still and hold your breath for seventeen seconds.»

The designated area was two oversized outlined shoe soles on the floor. I hit the mark and held my breath. Instantly, a six-foot black bar circled around me with a clicking sound.

After the 360° the computer voice told me, «Clear. Now please take a deep breath and exhale through your mouth as long as you can into the drop-down snorkel.»

A plastic hose fell from the ceiling into my view. I inhaled, took the wet mouthpiece into mine, and exhaled.

As soon I began, the female voice rooted for me, «Out, out, out, out, out, out, out...» until I had no air in my lungs anymore.

Right when I felt anxious during the ensuing silence, the voice came on again, «Congratulation, Arthur. You passed all tests. Have a pleasant trip and a great journey.»

«Thank you.»

Taking smaller steps, I got closer to the shuttle doors, which opened automatically for me. I noticed the air, it was different, something was missing, it could've been the moisture.

The other passengers looked at me, with faces not hiding their thoughts, between desperation and anticipation of an unforgettable time—although there was not much time left to forget anything, once you checked into the Cloud Hotel.

: : :

Another employee with a silky uniform approached me, stretching her arm out, «Welcome Arthur, my name is Daena, I'm your portier», she already looked at the person coming behind me, «I give you guys a prep talk before departure, including a QnA», then she tended to the person following me.

I sat down in my designated seat and blew up my mustache. The room was round, with a row of seats against the wall. A bench circled a metre-thick steel column in the middle, protruding from the ground to the ceiling. Fluffy mosaic carpet covered the floor, and the seat cushions matched it, causing a warm atmosphere despite the dark metal walls and the pillar. A Sylvia Plath quote read 'Dying is an art, like everything else'.

Nobody talked, although roughly twenty soon-to-be-heroes filled the elevator by now. Everybody was busy on their device, more out of habit, since there was no lethnet, playing one of the games the devices came with: Men Don't Get Angry or Greyarama.

The group was a cross-section of our society: there was the odd older greedy guy with the first grey hairs, more men than women—in Lethbridge women outnumbered men five to two, because men were more attracted to become a hero than women—and the youngest hero was a girl around the age of six, travelling with her mom, staring against the wall somewhere above me, one leg nervously bouncing up and down.

I opened my 55, first to play a last round of Greyarama, then I had an idea, and I recorded a quick video message for my brother.

I held the device close to my face and whispered, «Hi, it's me, I'm on the shuttle to the Cloud Hotel, kind of excited, and I wish you a speedy recovery from the surgery. You hear more from me when I'm at the hotel, talk to you later.» I saved the file on the front page, Berat would instantly find it after Afterlife handed him my 55er.

Daena looked at me but said nothing.

A couple jumped in, giggling, and Daena told them, they could sit down in the middle, those were the last-minute seats.

Then the portier closed the door, remained standing and asked for our attention, «Hello heroes, welcome on board again. As I said earlier, I have a few security tips for you. Our travel time to our destination will be 28 minutes today, and I would like to ask you to please stay seated during the entire ascend. Sometimes one or the other could feel woozy, then please just lift your arm, I'll be with you right away. So far everybody made it up, and nobody down, hahaha. If you are hungry or thirsty, you find a snack box under your seat. Device use is okay, NFC is also still possible, but please keep it down and use your earplugs carefully, nobody likes that little tinny sound. Some of us have had a busy life and are tired of it. The good time should start right here in the shuttle. The shuttle has four sections stacked on top of each other, which are called compartments and which fit 28 people each. You are in B. This was the official announcement, thanks for listening», she held her breath for a moment and looked at everybody individually, either for questions or to harvest more attention, «But because you are with me I have another idea which I offer every group I see fit, and you are kind of the people might liking it: a social game to get to know each other. As far as I can see, for the most part, you guys are strangers to each other, and I'd like to loosen that up a bit by playing a game. If nobody has anything against it, I will send a form to your device, and then let's see what happens. How does that sound?»

Watching the reactions in the round, they seemed to be as overrun by her as I was, but after somebody started nodding, others chimed in and soon all heads were bobbing.

Daena was visibly delighted and wiped her 56. When I opened mine, I found a grid on it with one question in each box.

The portier announced, «You have to talk to each other in order to find a person who can answer a question with a yes, and it can't be yourself. Go!»

: : :

In the beginning, we were not ready for social games among us, future heroes. Hesitantly we turned to each other, usually the neighbor, to ask things like «Have you ever laughed tears?». If you got a yes from one person, this person wasn't allowed to answer another question from you. Therefore, the conversational partners moved further and further away from one another and we ended up hollering questions and answers across the room in an attempt to be louder than the rest, and suddenly people started laughing, because they didn't understand each other anymore, or the wrong thing, and it felt like being at a cocktail party around midnight in one of the old movies we could watch until we lost everything when the cloud with all our data disappeared. All the talking had made me thirsty and I grabbed the delicious apple imitation juice from underneath my seat.

Daena just stood there with her arms crossed, smiling slightly.

During the game it seemed we had forgotten why we were here, but when the shuttle began to move, everybody turned quiet, casting glances as if something evil was moving in on us before the nervous laughter erupted. First, the acceleration caused the tickling sensation in my stomach, but shortly after, it didn't feel any more like much of a movement. A faint metallic hissing sound oozed from the walls, and after we got used to it, we continued yelling questions across the compartment.

Thanks to the game, I knew my neighbour was wearing white socks in his rubber boots, that the girl liked fake chocolate cake and had once travelled to Saskatoon, that the oldest guy could still quote an entire poem and remembered many things about the other people in the compartment. His memory was amazing, much better than the average person.

A woman which could pass as a teacher—and surely was overdressed for the occasion—suddenly jumped up announcing she had all the questions answered, which meant, she had won the game.

Daena invited her to read everything, and each person lifted their hand after hearing one's answer. Mine was the fact that I had produced far above average electricity, what Daena and a couple of the others found impressing—and I managed to raise some eyebrows, a guy to my left clapped his hands three times and stopped when nobody chimed in. It reminded me of my good days, possibly the last time I would witness this kind of positive reaction.

When she finished reading her Q&As, Daena congratulated her and promised she would be in for another nice surprise at the Cloud Hotel. And with these words, and the end of the game shortly before our arrival, everybody fell silent, fell into that hole of uncertainty, too encumbered by their inner loneliness, at a loss of words to write or say or send, not even capable of distracting themselves with a device game anymore. Everything was said, everything was done, everybody was waiting for the next day to come.

: : :

Too bad we couldn't witness the moment the shuttle pushed through the clouds into the sun above. I even had dreams of this moment since I heard about the Cloud Hotel, breaking through the clouds without warning encompassed by glistening light.

Unspectacularly, we rushed through the clouds in our elevator surrounded by concrete and steel.

For the last minute of our trip, the shuttle slowed down, and everybody packed their devices away, fell quiet and tugged on their clothes to ready themselves to enter the hotel.

When the door finally opened, everybody was overly polite. This had nothing to do with our entertaining social game and with the grown respect for one another, but with the deep inner unfounded anxiety, somebody could chop our head off the second we set foot into the hotel. Questions about our near future—in the likes of how our suicide would be administered—we dodged during our social game. Who knows, maybe one of us had chosen the Wildcard?

Daena mastered the situation with the routine nonchalance of a long time portier, guiding us out of our compartment into the gigantic foyer of the Cloud Hotel. With her you felt safe, she emitted those vibes with her soothing but not boring voice accompanied by the right amount of well-tempered gestures. Elegantly she lifted a red coat off its hook, slung it over and buttoned it up covering most of her grey ground uniform.

We were easy to spot, the new passengers, our heads bobbed around on our shoulders like rats afraid to be kicked. We were stunned by the glamour of this place: the colours, colours were everywhere, red, blue, yellow, green, all the colours of the old world and more, they almost hurt my eyes, I even squinted, my brain wasn't used to this sensory overload.

We were also curious to find a window to see the ocean of clouds. To our dismay, there was no window in this area, and there was not much time to complain, we were too impressed with the rainbowesque surroundings, the real wood furniture in different tones of brown, the red uniforms of the employees with their golden buttons, the colour flatscreens showing scenes from the past, sandy beaches, palm trees and sunsets and dark green walls with classic oil paintings, rich in yellow light, with those deep blues and reds. From an invisible ceiling hung thousands of illuminated glass chains like frozen sparkling rain. Over a dozen mighty columns reached into the glass pearls above us, holding the roof.

I had to force myself to close my mouth in awe while inching toward the reception to the sound of constantly clinging glasses. Noticeable was the shuffling of our feet over the marble floor with its fine green arteries. Still, nobody said a word, merely pointing shyly at luxurious details, ornaments and again and again at reds and pinks and purples.

A server held a tablet the size of a rickshaw wheel in front of me presenting a wide variety of long drinks and cocktails. She started to unspool her memorized names and ingredients, flavors and alcohol contents. Since I couldn't follow her, I settled early for a yellow, reddish long drink with a blue straw. My entire attention was tangled up in the splendor.

She congratulated me on my decision, a Tequila Cloudswirl, and her free hand pointed politely to the Goozonx coach long reception desk I should go to.

There, countless employees scrambled around to serve the new arrivals. Queuing was unnecessary, a designated bellhop waited for each of us, and servers with trays full of tooth-picked grapes and real cheese cubes, pralines and cake bites hovered from one to the next.

I grabbed a caramel chocolate and ended up with Epona, friendly, smiling, she greeted me with my name.

«Did you have a pleasant trip up here?»

«Thank you, I did.» The sweet taste of the treat caused a brief flashback to my early childhood.

While wiping over a screen, lowered into the desk between us, she asked, «Who was your portier?»

«Daena.» I looked around if I could see her, but there were too many people, so I just sucked on my Tequila and with the fourth gulp I felt the alcohol kicking in, differently from the wash available in Lethbridge, a stale form of rainbeer served through one of the hole-in-the-walls along Stafford and Mayor Magrath, this tequila buzz was sensational.

«Daena, lucky you! She is great. Did you play her game?»

«Yes. You know it?»

«It is very successful, and the talk is, the other portiers should play it too.»

«I can see why.»

«Where's your luggage?»

«I travel light.»

My answer caused a bump in her routine, for a fraction of the second she held in, a rift between produced and perceived reality, her movements and her small talk spill; then she continued in her friendly manner, «How's your drink?»

«Excellent, fruity.»

«Is that a Vodka Mirage or a Tequila Cloudswirl?»



I tasted oranges, I even felt the pulp, I had to ask and tapped against my long drink, «Are they real?»

«The glass? Yes.»

«No, sorry, the oranges in here.»

«Oh yeah, everything is real at the Cloud Hotel. So...», she pushed a button on the flatscreen, and her finger curved almost 90° in the opposite direction, «I have here our standard premium single room booked for you.»


«All-inclusive drinks, buffets, games and attractions.»


«As your way to go, you chose the Wildcard.»

«Yes, no. No! I mean no! Not at all!», instantly I looked over my shoulders and ducked as if I could get macheted right here.

«Oh, you are right, hahaha, it just changed to French Revolution. A funny delay.»

«Funny? You scared me.»

«No worry. Your room is free, you can go there right away if you want, the key code I just sent to your device, also the map of the hotel, so you're not getting lost. The shortest way to your room is highlighted.»

I sucked at the straw and felt the warmth of the alcohol swapping through my body. «Thank you.»

As I wanted to turn around, she stopped me with a, «Wait! Here, you need these later.»

She slid a pair of dark sunglasses with a neon blue frame across the counter into my hand, «Now it is time to get shaved», and she pointed to a barber's pole turning behind me.

«What? Shave?»

Epona's hand drew a mustache hanging from her face.

«Nobody told me.»

«That a deal breaker?»

«No, of course not. But why?»

«Nobody has a mustache in the hotel. A mustache could blotch certain ways to go. Like», her thumb sliced her throat, «And giving away certain personal decisions in public. Out of discretion and respect, nobody wears one.»

: : :

When the door to my hotel room clicked open, I stopped rubbing over the naked part where my mustache used to be. The reflected sunlight from the clouds flooded through the sepia-tinted window over me, and I had to squint immediately. My eyes, used to a lifetime under grey skies and muted lights, needed their time to adjust to the brightness.

The sun. Somewhere out there was the sun. Slowly, almost to counter my rising pulse, I walked towards the window. A spiritual moment. Behind me, the door fell shut.

The sepia ocean of clouds sprawled to the horizon, motionless, and clearly white behind the tinted glass, like the snow that used to fall in the past. I wondered why the clouds were grey from below but white from the top.

The structure of the hotel bulged over this wing of the building blocking the sun and casting its own shadow on the clouds below.

Only now I remembered the sunglasses. I sat them up and shielded my eyes with the second layer.

What a marvelous world. Cold, I felt the window on my forehead and my breath fogged the glass rhythmically. The area around my mouth felt naked and slightly cold, carrying the smell of the aftershave. My hands laid flat on the window as if in a failed attempt to touch the clouds.

Slowly the warmth of the reflected sunbeams warmed my face, my body, and a kind of peace spreading out from my chest, a calmness I had never felt before. An unspecific lightness won over the invisible weight I had carried around all my life. The common rules of gravity didn't seem to apply to this place. There was no longing anymore, nothing I wanted to do, nothing I had to do, just standing here like that, for the rest of my time, my eyes resting on the sunlit clouds.

A knock on the door.


«May I come in?», I heard Epona through the beige wood.

With a squeaking noise from my skin over the glass, I lowered my arms and turned around. «Sure.»

First she peeked through the crack of the door, then she opened it until the back softly touched the closet as if she could find me in a compromising situation.

«How is everything?», she asked.

I lifted my sunglasses.

Just now I paid attention to the straightened yellow sheets on my single bed, to the purple wrapped praline on top of my white pillow, a true white, not the faintest recycle-shade. A small bottle of red wine and a glass stood on the end table, and my blue hotel slacks waited for me folded on a chair.

One big flat screens hung on the green wall showing a real-time sunset over a tropical beach, and the yellows, reds and blues and all their complementary colours caused a sense of melancholy in me, a forgotten craving, a deeply human reaction to a greater human loss. I might have cried without Epona.

«Totally awesome», I forced out, to disguise my emotional turmoil.

«If there's anything I can do for you, let me know, our devices are linked.»

«Thank you.»

«How do you feel?»

«Why do you ask?»

Her eyes twitched to the side, «Because some visitors feel overwhelmed, you know, the clouds, the colors, for some it is a lot to take in.»

«It is. It is. Beautiful.»

She smiled. «Since you travel without luggage… Do you need a pyjama or something?»

I haven't thought of that, her question sounded out of place and logical at the same time. «Good idea.»

«Fine, you will find it on your bed tonight. And if there's anything else, you know how to find me or one of my colleagues. Toiletries and towels are in the bathroom.»

«Okay, thank you.»

«No problem», she thought of something, «What are your plans for today? I mean until the sun plank obviously.»

In about four hours, I had the honour to walk the plank.

«I... I don't know, I guess first to get used to this view», I pointed behind me with my right thumb next to my ear, «And then I take a look at the map of the hotel.»

«Do that! And get comfortable», she cast a look at the chair, «By the way, places and activities of interest for you are personalized, based on your device data and highlighted on the map.»


For a moment I felt she was waiting for something for me to say, but then she wished me a good day and left.

I plopped down the shades and turned around to the window to let my eyes harvest the horizon, the clouds and the blue sky.

After what felt like an eternity, I whispered, «Time for fun.»

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