The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow, Chapter 3.2 by Laura Zabala
                                         Privilege Gained

 

 

  Zara and Izzy were in the entertainment tier below the business tier. Each tier that had another above it had a simulated sky within the protective bubble of that tier. Zara was looking up at the simulcast of blue skies and white clouds. Izzy came back her flimsy loaded with two tickets. She transferred one ticket to Zara’s flimsy. The two of them walked to the theater hand in hand. Zara’s heart was beating faster. Though she knew Izzy for years her romantic interest was more recently developed. The feel of Izzy's hand around her’s, making her float with joy. Izzy had asked on their way up if she could have one full day with Zara. Zara agreed. There had been times they hung out, but this felt official. Like the way a witch prepared for the steps of a spell and ritualistically practiced the components with careful attention to detail. Being friends it did not matter too much how things went as long as you had fun, but going on a date felt like taking your spiritual life to the next level; from acknowledging the gods to trying to influence the world with spells. At least through Zara’s pagan lens, it was how it seemed. Inside the theater, they entered separate chambers that sat next to one another. After each session, the chambers were sanitized automatically the chambers were connected enough to allow viewers to hold hands. When the movie played Zara and Izzy saw the scenes through the actors’ eyes, smelled the aromas the actors smelled. When an actor ran the feeling of running was simulated. It was the closest their culture had come to the famed holodeck mentioned in a tv series a century prior.

When the film was done they passed over the cafeteria to make their way to the food district a tier below them. While the car was flying on autopilot Izzy grabbed Zara's hand and rubbed her fingers over her knuckles Zara looked at her wanting to say something but stopped short seeing the somber gaze in her eyes.

“Are you having a good time?” Izzy asked while watching their descent through the window panel on the floor. “Yes,” Zara frustrated by Izzy’s distraction shimmied closer to her seat and grabbed her chin. The two women locked eyes. Zara kissed Izzy softly on the lips, then gently on her cheeks and lastly on her forehead. “We could be at home watching the most boring show and it would be a good time.” Izzy took a sharp breath her eyes watery and plunged into a passionate kiss with Zara. The car’s announcement of their arrival rudely interrupted. Zara stepped out first and held Izzy’s hand as she exited. The two made their way arm in arm down the sidewalk.

“Where should we eat?” Izzy asked as they approached a map of the food district. Zara followed the back of Izzy's hair to the curve of her ear, trailing that to the shape of her thin lips. What food gave the most pleasure to Izzy? Pasta.

“How about Italian?”

“What about Chinese?” Izzy asked, which was Zara's favorite.

The two looked at each other searching. “Italian then?” Izzy cocked her head, Zara smiled, “Italian.”

Together they spotted a restaurant on the map that looked good. Then Zara took the lead as the two made their way through the crowds. No longer holding hands or linking arms at times their hands would brush past one another. Izzy sped up to pass Zara slightly to avoid clashing with a cluster of walkers. Zara stretched her arm out to protect her back. Her heart skipped a beat when Izzy would check in her direction and come up behind trusting her to lead. When they reached their destination a huge sign with a pasta bowl and spoon and pasta covered fork glowed in neon. Under the sign a banner of projections showing the food and its preparation as commercials to entice guests. The two women entered the restaurant and were given a seat on the third floor by a robotic host. They followed the diagram on the menus which projected not only of the right place to sit but what condiments were available and where, as well as instaready refreshments. They docked their flimsies into holsters anchored onto the window. Then poked an app that logged into the restaurant and automatically made their accounts ready. “Let me take this one.” Zara requested glad to see Izzy nod in affirmation. She punched a symbol used universally for claiming the bill. All further expenses would pass to her account for the meal unless otherwise adjusted. A soda dispenser hovered to their table. Zara ordered a bubbly peppermint green tea soda and Izzy an orange pop with natural sugars. The machine dispensed the sodas and flew to the next table. A server drone appeared to take their order. Once the request was put in they'd have to wait for the food printers, prep cooks, and quality control to approve the meal. A twenty-minute wait max. If they wanted they could order an instatizer from a server drone, but they wanted to savor the meal.

 

  The pasta tasted like it was handmade and fresh. The engineers really outdid themselves with the equipment. Zara made a hand motion where she closed her fingers then released them as she kissed the air. “Perfecto.” Izzy laughed. “I remember when people cooked using flash-frozen food.” Zara nodded, “now they work doing something else or are supported by universal income.” The rise of the machine was what helped to kill the traditional capitalist system that fed off sacrificing starving children and people's health so the few elite could have disproportionately more. What surprised people most was that human beings turned out not to be lazy enough to do nothing as a species. Instead, left with alone time people pursued passions and made additional income in many cases from things that they had not thought of. Turns out when you give a person the tools to survive they can use that to further themselves to thrive. Ultimately Zara was glad she had her extra paycheck from universal income when she was starting her practice. Now she made enough not to need it. She opted out of universal income like some successful people did so some kid starting out could find their own dreams.

“So you decided to marry Tanaka?” Zara was wondering when that would come up.

“I didn't think it through.”

“Society's heteronormative lens did program you to say yes and make babies to further the line of humanity.” 

Zara scoffed. “You have had boyfriends too and you know Tanaka and I are open.”

“We own a house together and why does he get to put a ring on it? Because he is a man?” Izzy's tone was soft and earnest. Zara was glad she wasn't yelling, but still, it stung like she was. How did you manage a poly relationship with two primary partners when legally you can only marry one? Simple, by not letting marriage define everything. Or so Zara thought.

“Marriage does not determine how much I love someone it is only the proof of a legally binding obligation. I don't need that with you.” Izzy nodded. The two of them looked down at their plates silently twirling pasta. A woman from the table next to them approached their table, “I am here with my wife and children and we would really appreciate it if you didn't talk about open relationships in front of them it sets a bad example. Especially, bisexual ones.” Izzy dropped her fork, “really?! Bisexuality is an orientation. People determine how much sex or how many partners they do or do not have as individuals.” Zara tried to quiet her but Izzy continued, “Also open does not mean the same thing for every consensual cluster of people dating. Why do humans keep doing the same ignorant shit every century? Move tables!” Within five minutes the family complained and a server drone kicked them out. They were banned from the restaurant for a month. They laughed carrying leftovers. “So many people were staring at you yelling like you were speaking the words of the devil.”

“Ironic that the lesbian should call us out.”

Zara smirked, “privilege gained is sometimes understanding lost.”

“At least they can't tell we aren't standards.”

“21st century and the closet still exists.”

They laughed some more at themselves the dark humor barely covering the lack of comfort in their lives. The case loomed at the back of their minds. The threat of losing their liberty haunting them. It was midday and Izzy had more planned. She dragged Zara with her to pick up rental bikes, they would make their way to the Dessert Alcove where themed shops and entertainment abound. 


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