by Stanley Lieber
Contradictions of life in the hotel: The restaurant was on a separate floor from its restrooms. SL took the stairs, mainly because the lateral elevator only moved sideways. In addition, upon exiting the elevator one was obliged to pass through a hall of nostalgic material commemorating the hotel’s past advertising campaigns. Egressing the hall, guests were scanned and automatically (publicly) registered as willing participants in the current advertising campaign, details TBA. A mandatory, implicit endorsement of this horseshit. SL was glad to avoid it.
Walking back up the stairs to the restaurant presented its own challenges: Interception by the hotel’s dedicated coaching staff. No matter how many times SL refused service, the pitch was always the same: Come with us if you want to live. SL invariably declined such an open-ended proposition.
For some reason all the motor vehicles in town were rocking green wheels. Somehow SL had failed to notice this before. He figured there must be some significance, perhaps a meaningful one, but he couldn’t imagine what it might be. Green rubber? Was it political? Guys down at the VFW just stared at him whenever he brought it up. So he let the matter drop, and soon he forgot all about it, as if all wheels everywhere had always been green. A lot of things around here seemed to work that way. Just let it go, and maybe soon you’ll forget about it. One could only hope.
SL patted the hidden compartment in his trousers. The envelope was still there.
What had become of his friend during all these weeks? Who cared, really? SL wasn’t feeling charitable. He was certain he would know where to find his fellow addict if the need were to arise. Just pop on his gloves and login.
But the need wasn’t going to arise, was it?
"Long time no snark," SL’s friend let off a wild shot, genuinely happy to see him.
"Yeah," SL allowed, sounding deflated.
Thank the president for ambient sound. SL adjusted his haptic depth. In the weeks since he’d logged in there had been some considerable drift in his settings. He ignored it.
He didn’t really want to do this.
Afterwards, SL was disappointed with himself. Again, he’d broken a winning streak only to come away feeling worse than when he’d gone in. And it was getting worse—his remaining equipment was deteriorating.
He remembered then that this, too, was a part of the theory of recovery: Sit out here in the middle of nowhere until your devices all age off of the network.
At least that last part was working as intended.