Scene 16

Downbeat City, February 20. 1458 hours.

 

− You’re late.

Jules, wearing a sarong, a bikini top, and flip-flops, lights a cigarette. She has just joined Aria at a beach café. They sit in white plastic chairs at a table under a sun parasol that advertises Antarctica, one of the two Saudade Sector beers.

Oi! Uma caipirinha por favor, Jules shouts to the waiter. Relax, you’re in Downbeat City, she says to Aria.

− Yeah. I’m still waiting for the downbeat. This city used to be hopping. The stories my granddad told me. The biggest party on earth. Carnaval. Where is everybody?

− At least they’re off the streets. The gun battles between drug gangs in this city used to put conventional war to shame.

− The last people on earth I would think would become headset addicts. The people of Saudade Sector used to live for music, for dancing, for socializing, for lolling about on the streets. The city’s a ghost town.

− You can party just as well in the virtual world.

− The virtual world is like the Hades of the ancient Greeks. Not even the Greek heroes were happy to be in the hallowed hall of dead war heroes. When you’re in hell, you’re still conscious as you were when you were alive. You just have no flesh. You can’t drink because the cup you put to your fleshless lips pours mead into your mouth, and it just runs down your rib cage. You can’t hold any food or water. You’re always hungry and thirsty. You can’t sleep. You’re damned to eternal, disembodied consciousness. Sartre’s Hell of No Exit. An eternal room, where you’re alone with your thoughts until eternity.

− Is that how you imagine it? I find the virtual world as stimulating as the real one.

− Then why don’t you go there?

− I will. I’m here to take you with me.

− If I’m the last person on earth with no headset on, I can live with it. I was born to this world, and am not so eager to leave it just yet.

− Then why do you make headset art?

− Because it’s the only way to reach people. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

− My sentiments, exactly. Oi, dois caipirinhas de mais, por favor. Your problem right now is that you’re sober.

− When is the deal going down?

− I expect, within 24 hours.

Aria slouches in her white plastic chair despondently. Jules gives her the once-over. Baggy t-shirt and boxer shorts, sneakers and white socks. Black sunglasses that look too practical, that blot out her eyes. She looks as if she is self-consciously rebelling against the sensual beach fashion of Downbeat City. Dressed as a Productivity Sector tourist.

Aria downs the drink in one gulp without even looking at it and resumes her depressed slouch.

− Come here. Jules stands up and takes Aria’s hand.

− What?

− Let’s go swimming. Aria lets Jules pull her along. The waves splash onto Ipanema Beach. No one else is there. It’s surreal. Aria pulls her t-shirt off, revealing her big, motherly breasts. Jules loses her sarong and shows her little breasts and bikini bottom, her gorgeous, strong thighs.

They jump in the water, let the waves carry them, hold each other, kiss, caress each other, and forget time.

 

They plop laughing and exhausted on the beach. Jules toe-wrestles with Aria as they lie side by side in the sand. Off in the distance, on Leblon beach, they see a figure. A man incongruously dressed in shirt and tie. He is looking at them.

 

− Hello? Aria answers her cell.

− Hey, we’re at the airport. They’ve got us in a room. They said they want to ask us a few questions.

− What the fuck? (She looks at Jules.) They’ve stopped them at the airport. We’ve covered our tracks well. There’s no virtual paper trail. Don’t worry. Just tell ‘em you’re Productivity Sector tourists. Call me as soon as you can.

− Okay, honey. See you soon.

− That was not supposed to happen, Aria tells Jules.

− I’ve been in touch with my people, too, Jules says with a scowl. I’ve made sure that we would disappear from Productivity Sector without a trace.

− Is somebody on to us?

− I don’t see how they could be. Unless they’ve been talking to someone who knows you from Efficiency City.

− Let’s get out of here.

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