This week’s Sunday Snippet comes from an older story of mine called VR Palace.
I didn’t like the original cover, which I did back when I didn’t know much about cover art design, so I revamped it and made something much nicer. Or, at least, the guy on it is much cuter.
This is an odd story, I’ll tell you that upfront. It’s written in the 2nd person POV (which is something you don’t see often), in the present tense (which I personally like but some people hate), and neither of the main characters have names.
In a future where pleasure is bought in virtual reality parlors, one man creates the perfect lover. Spun from binary code, everything he could want in a boy except real … or is he?
Welcome to a world where pleasure is bought and sold in virtual reality parlors. Where customers can fashion a computerized fantasy playmate who is always willing and caters to their every sexual desire. Where reality blurs between worlds, and the only thing you can believe in is love …
The soothing sound pounds around you in a steady rhythm. Like a massage, the sound works the tension from your neck, your back, your arms. When you open your eyes you find yourself inside your car again. A tiny voice inside your mind whispers this isn’t real.
You know that. But this is exactly where you want to be.
The car is off and you’re stretched back in the driver’s seat, the windows frosted with a thin layer of condensation. The only sound is the rain, pouring as if it’ll never stop. But this is your reality. If you don’t want it…
You do. It’s hard and fast, like the music you listen to when no one else is around, and it’s just what you need to wash away the rest of your day. As you think this, the rain picks up outside until it beats against your car with monsoonal ferocity and the vehicle trembles beneath the downpour. A harsh roar drowns out everything else and when you press your hand to the window, you can feel cool air curl around your fingers, and the glass fogs up beneath your skin.
Then you see him.
He’s wearing shorts and a T-shirt—no, that’s not right. It’s chilly out there, and he’s been…traveling, or something, you’re not sure yet. He’s dressed in jeans and a tank top—no, a button-down shirt, white, open in the front so you can see the white tank top he wears beneath it when the wind catches his shirttails and whips them back from his thin frame.
He’s lanky because you like your guys like that, and he’s taller than you but only by an inch or two, that’s it. And he’s younger, almost a full three years, because you want him to be. Narrow waist, ropy arms, strong hands. He can dance because you can’t. He has eyes like crystals, so blue they’re almost transparent, and hair that falls back from his face in loose waves. Maybe it’s cut short—you think he might look good with a crew cut. Or something in between, yes, long enough to run your fingers through but not quite to his collar. That’s how you want it this time.
He stands beneath the overhang of a building across the street, the only person in sight. In this rain, that’s no surprise. He’s eyeing the sky like he thinks maybe he can wait a few more minutes and this storm will let up, but he’s wrong, it’s going to rain all night, only letting up in the wee hours of morning. You’ll lie awake in his bed later, his arms draped around you in sleep, and listen to the runoff drip drip drip outside the window, mingled with his soft snores. But that’s later. You don’t like to skip ahead.
Come on, you think. It’s not going to stop.
As if he hears your thoughts, he turns up his collar, takes a tentative step from under the overhang, covers his head with one hand in an ineffectual gesture, and steps off the curb. He splashes through swirling water and then jogs across the empty street, crossing the median now…where’s he going? Home, maybe, or the bus station. Yeah, that sounds good. The bus station.
Without thinking, you flash your headlights at him and he freezes. You see him peering at the car, slick with rain, shining in the glow of one solitary street lamp. He’s staring like he’s trying to see past the blurred windshield, see who’s inside.
But he doesn’t know you—you don’t want him to, not tonight. You want the thrill of a new seduction, not the familiar touch of an old lover. So this will be the first time he meets you, since he realizes he doesn’t know where he’s going and maybe you can give him directions. He’s only twenty-five, invincible, and you’re in a dry car in the midst of a torrential downpour. How long do you think it’s going to take him to trot over and ask for a lift?
Two and a half seconds, that’s it. You know because you count them, one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, and before you get to three, he’s heading your way. Taps on the driver’s side window, already talking as you roll the glass down. “—to get to the bus station? Hey, by the way. Could you maybe give me a rough idea of where it is?”
He leans into the car a little, and the fresh scent of rain clings to him. Cool air swirls around your hands and down your legs. Water beads on his eyelashes, on his skin. He wipes it away with one hand and smiles, and that’s what you love most about him, that grin. It’s like a million kisses hidden in there, and no matter how many you take, you can never have them all.
You meet his eyes, like diamonds tonight, sparkling and clear. Beautiful, the planes of his face, the curve of his jaw, the ridge of his nose. The way his brow wrinkles when he looks at you, waiting for an answer. The way his lower lip pouts out a little when he sniffles.
“The bus station?” you ask.
He nods, shivering because he’s damp and it’s cold. Getting colder the more you think about it—you like rainstorms like this.
With a sad smile, you tell him, “That’s on the other side of town, a few miles from here, that way. I’m sorry.”
When you point ahead into the rain, his face falls. “Damn,” he murmurs. “How far?”
You’re not really sure. “Too far to walk in this.”
He glances past you at the promise of the empty passenger seat, the lure of a dry car, warmth, companionship. When he looks at you again, you see young lust in his eyes, a fire deep within him beginning to smolder, a hunger he thinks you might be able to satisfy. He takes in your dark eyes, your disarming grin, your disheveled hair, your large hands. You like the way he glances at your hands, your lips, back again as if he’s remembering that old saying about the size of a guy’s hands. It’s true, you should say.
Only that would be awkward. He’d want to know what you’re talking about because you like him to think he’s not as transparent as he really is, so you just nod at the seat beside you and ask, “Can I give you a ride?” And I’m not just talking about to the station.
His smile widens, if that’s possible. “You sure?” he asks, as if he doesn’t dare hope…
“Sure, I’m sure.” You jerk a thumb at the seat and wink at him, even though that might be a bit much. “Hop on in.”
You don’t need to tell him twice. He all but leaps over the hood of the car—you can hear his jeans scrape the custom paint job you put on this thing, but hey, it’s not real—and then he’s tugging on the handle to the passenger side door, eager to get in. It’s hard to ignore the way your pants bite into your crotch when you lean across the seat and unlock the door. He slides in beside you, bringing in a blast of cold air that curls around your groin. “Thanks,” he sighs.
Don’t thank me yet. You roll up your own window and go to start the car, at least get the heat turned on, this boy is soaked—and then you think you might have a towel in the back seat. So you reach back behind his seat, smiling at the way his eyes widen when you lean toward him. He holds his breath, waiting for you to make the first move; he wants you to, you can feel his need and desire radiating off him, he wants you…but you just pull out the towel and tell him, “You’re all wet.”
“You have no idea,” he breathes.