Cassini’s Divisions


One man… and his friends, alone, in an empty world


He likes to sit on the balcony and watch the huge white moon lapping the city towers. He’s seen wolves and deer moving through the shadows below. He’s seen bats and owls flitting between the ruins. Every now and then there’ll be illumination winking at the crest of other towers. So there must be people. He laces fingers around his glass, swirls the liquor before gulping it back. Eyes drawn repeatedly to one tower. One particular point of light. Perhaps one day he’ll descend to street-level, despite the uncertain hazards, and seek out one of these inhabited tower-blocks. That one. But not now. Not today.

Glenn sits across the table from him. Good old reliable Glenn. They might sit in that companionable silence that comes from total familiarity, or else they reminisce in long rambling discourses – punctuated by laughter, as the evening unravels. At other times he prefers Cassini’s company. She offers… other, attractions. They lie together on the duvet, not touching. For they can never touch. But the lights are softly dimmed. He closes his eyes and they weave interactive erotic fantasies together of breathtaking intensity. He feels so at peace in the warm sensitive afterglow of their loving.

‘We’ve always been friends’ he tells Glenn. ‘Haven’t we?’ He thumbs the remote, so many studs, he hits… this one, and the flatscreen fades up. Sky-panels create endless power. The library seems inexhaustible.

‘Sure. Ever since we were raggy-arsed kids, before the world went to hell.’

‘We’ve never disagreed throughout that time?’

‘Me and you, Mukesh? Naw… never.’

‘Just that I have this memory. There was that time when we holidayed together in Albufeira, and I slept with your wife. We came to blows over that. We never even spoke to each other after that…’

Glenn looks up at him curiously. ‘You’re my best friend, I’m not about to contradict you. But I have no memory of that ever occurring. Are you serious?’

He laughs. ‘Just joshing you, man. You know that. Just that every now and then I seem to get flashes of the time before. When things were different.’

He likes to sit on the balcony and look out over the city. Sometimes Allegra Phoenickson and Tina Davisonald are there too. The five of them sit around the table and banter and party. It’s wonderful to have such rapport in the company of such good friends. But more usually it’s either Glenn or Cassini. He tries to remember when he first encountered her. There are drifting memories of them together, a rendezvous in a coffee house. She’s talking and laughing, but he can’t recapture the words.

He wakes. It’s morning, a thin cool sunlight. The world renewing. He makes coffee and carries it out onto the balcony. When he’s alone, he wonders where they go. They’re there when he needs them. Then, they’re not. And why does Glenn not remember Albufeira? A sudden shock and horror rocks him. Because Glenn’s been edited, that’s why. Conflict is stressful, so there’s no conflict. The coffee is hot on his lips. The rich aroma carries teasing memory-associations. Cassini’s smile. His eyes wander out over the dereliction. Towards that one particular tower. It seems perfectly still. No indication of occupancy. But when darkness falls, there’s illumination there. Does that other person, up there, also have a retinue of agreeable friends, who never contradict and are always so supportive? Is that the way of things, is that how it began? Individuals retreating into a physical isolation, surrounded by replicate-programs of friends, opting for that over real-life interactions. No conflict, no disagreements. Until there’s nothing else, just pockets of virtual friends, as society disintegrated?

He flips the flatscreen remote in his hand. So many studs. Idly he wonders, what if he hits… this one?

Mukesh is gone. It’s morning, a thin cool sunlight. Wolves and deer move through derelict shadows between tall ruined tower-blocks. The world renewing. The system reboots. Reconfiguring its systems. No sound. No movement. Then it will resume. As it has across five-hundred years.





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