Excerpt Three

      Biceps parks himself on a bench in the park and waits for his beloved to appear. He discovers he is still holding his bouquet of red roses. This amplifies his shame. He rushes to the closest trash bin to get rid of it. Then he gets back to his bench. Her wild, delicious form
comes into view, exactly on time.

        candygirl said: missed u honey

The Cerebellum’s heart throbs as if pounded by a drunken drummer in a rock band. He can hardly get a grip on himself.

        You said: Oh, really.

        Luckily, the dialogue takes place by typing on the keyboard. Otherwise he would never have managed to keep his emotions in check.

        candygirl said: if i didnt know better i d think maybe u r jealous

        You said: Actually, I am more bewildered than jealous.

        candygirl said: i admire u so much but not 4 ur muscles. u know u can buy them from the shops. it s ur mind I love ur deep understanding of life. ur spirit ur genuine desire 2 understand others and connect with them

        You said: And can a great mind protect its owner from pain . . . particularly when he has been betrayed?

        No sooner does the word ‘betrayed’ appear on the screen than its echoes start to reverberate in the Cerebellum’s consciousness. Whatever gives him the right—he, who has never been married or even had a real relationship with anyone else—to claim he has been betrayed? He was born different. A fact that has been impossible to deny since the third grade, when he discovered he was better at arithmetic than his teacher. Since then, the course of his life cannot possibly be described as normal. But now, as he faces the computer screen, he does not feel the slightest regret. Being a loner has always suited him most. His particular disposition has protected him from the emotional disturbances that usually impede the intellectual development of the young, and has afforded him a crystal-clear vision of the world around him. One of the fruits of his isolation has been to spare him the very betrayal he now laments to his dumb screen. So how could he—after all these years—put himself at the mercy of an electronic doll, who would vanish without a trace if the power were switched off?

        candygirl said: betrayal? wht r u talking about?

        You said: Can you deny that I caught you in the middle of a romantic situation with another guy? Would you not consider that a betrayal?

        candygirl said: the traditions u r talking about r not absolute. they only made sense in a certain historical context. 2 maintain social order 4 example. 2 protect the family unit and raise the kids in a better way. 2 avoid unwanted pregnancies when the mother s economic situation didn t allow her 2 care for the child. For men 2 feel confident they r actually supporting their own chldren. 2 avoid the spread of stds like aids. all these considerations jst don t exist here. this is the world of genuine freedom. there s no place here for jealousy and chauvinism. we live without food but never feel hungry. we both have the right 2 have as many relationships as we want with no boundaries or guilt. there s no religion here. no blessing and sin. no heaven and hell. don t u realize tht even the gods don t exist in ths dimension

        The Cerebellum taps the rusting table with nervous fingers. He grasps candygirl’s logic but cannot work out all its implications. She, too, possesses a clear mind, which is probably why he was attracted to her in the first place. But her words bring all the rules tumbling down. He needs to mull over what she is saying, but he fails to control his growing anger.

        You said: Then you are not denying you are having an affair.

        He needs to get to the truth in order to free himself of this murderous suspicion. No matter how painful it may be, the truth is better than losing his mind altogether.

        candygirl said: how do u know i m not married in the material world

        You said: I had always thought of our relationship as unique.

        candygirl said: and u r rght wht we hve is unique but that doesn t mean we can t both hve other relationships

        You said: I may be able to live with other relationships in the material world . . . on the basis that we are dealing with two different dimensions of existence and that you have physical needs in that other dimension that cannot be satisfied here. But what is really driving me crazy is that you feel the need for another relationship in virtual reality. Am I incapable of satisfying your needs, here at least?

        The Cerebellum hits the keyboard so hard that the laptop shakes on the metal table.

        candygirl said: u r immensely knowledgeable biceps ur conversation never fails to impress me yet u still hold on 2 the material world s traditions n way of thinking. u r trying to import them over here 2 this new universe. this can only limit ur takeoff. can t u see we r witnessing the birth of an unprecedented way of life here. one that the world has never seen the likes of before

        You said: On the contrary, this parallel universe has come to represent the essence of my existence. That is why I need to maintain my bearings here, too. As for you, I can see you perceive it as a place to have fun . . . a new kind of videogame.

        The Cerebellum can feel the rumblings of an earthquake starting to shatter his world. The Good Lady’s building is about to collapse on top of him, together with its two prostitutes and their clients.

        candygirl said: reality has indeed merged wth videogame 2 the extent that it s no longer possible to tell when one starts and the other ends. take a second 2 imagine the degree of freedom that the virtual world affords us. all our shackles disappear. here freedom is absolute and ppl s capabilities r infinite.

        Reality has merged with videogame. Precisely. The Cerebellum cannot deny that. It would probably have been possible to deal with the conundrum posed by candygirl’s behavior if only the two worlds had remained distinct from one another. He might have been able to accept her premise and even to experiment with her . . . except that—thanks to the innocent beauty, Didi— reality has intruded on his life, polluted the virtual world with its mist of greed and insecurity, to say nothing of the sense of responsibility that, overnight, crept into his soul: that feeling of guilt that now haunts him.

        You said: You are killing me with your words . . . do you not realize that you have just signed my death warrant?

        He feels one warm tear roll down his cheek. Hiding in the virtual universe in order to escape the evils of reality was a delicious dream. But, like all dreams, it has evaporated under the scrutiny of daylight’s first merciless ray.

        candygirl said: I m actually throwing you a life vest. opening the door 4 u 2 a new life a life without restrictions or limits. anyway why don t u think it over till we meet tomoro ok

        Like a lazy student shutting a book that’s too demanding, the Cerebellum folds his laptop with a thud. Adopting the tone of a gang boss who wears U.S. Marines sunglasses and talks like a New Age businessman, he mumbles, “All right.”