Adrian decided today would be just like any other day, and so it was. He and Icar left the cafeteria in a daze together, walking a short way until they decided that they both had their own agenda for the day.
His buzz was still quite intense, so he decided to go to one of the pubs at 9 in the morning. (Why not, many believed this to be a perfectly acceptable usage of time.) He wouldn’t drink,he hardly ever did, but he would use the old and tattered pool table in the back.
Yes, they had a REAL pool table. Most places had spaces that would allow you to play virtual sports, but real life games of skill were few and far between. He didn’t care to play the game with others much, but he did enjoy the realness of the sport. It was barbaric, and elegant at the same time. The slightest miscalculation in an angle would ruin the outcome; but the goal was to smack a ball around with a stick to make another ball go in the hole. Simple, yet elegant.
The morning breeze was cool, but felt nice on his skin as he journeyed through the streets. The walls outside were again a dull brown, same as the cobblestone street patterns. If he chose to, he could make the wall whatever color he wanted. He left it alone today and tried to admire other scenery.Scattered about in the stone walkways were small trees that stood out against the dull colors. Aside from the trees, there was no greenery to be seen anywhere inside of the entire district, except for at the park. Everything else was stone.
Adrian reached the bar after the short walk, making his way through the crowded throng of people who had already filed in after breakfast. He paid no attention to the stink of sweat and booze as he walked back to the table. There were still a few balls scattered on the field from an unfinished game. Adrian glanced over at the bartender, who had been observing Adrian as he walked in. The man smiled and moved towards Adrian.
“What can I get for you sonny? Whisky or Gin?” The bartender had a thick mustache and a close shaved haircut, with a slicked over part. He was polishing a glass with a clean white towel, and his whiskers bristled as he smiled politely at Adrian.
“Just a water today, thank you.”
The bartenders smile immediately disappeared, making his facial hair cover his mouth. “I don’t like customers who don’t pay. First rule: Don’t bother me unless you are buying something. Second rule: If you are thirsty for water, go to the bar and grab your own glass. You can fill it up with water from the back bathroom sink.” He began to leave, then turned around to add an afterthought. ” And the final rule, If any paying customers want to play pool, I expect you to leave the table.” The bartender walked back behind the counter and continued to polish the same glass he had been holding, shaking his head and muttering curses under his breath
Adrian laughed at the no nonsense attitude the man had. He walked up to the side of the bar and nonchalantly grabbed a glass, then went back into the bathroom and filled it with the slightly brown water that came from the tap.
Adrian set the glass down to let the water settle out, then began to rack the table for a brand new game.He always forgot that bars were one of the only businesses left that humans still ran. No man wanted to drink with a robot bartender serving them. Usually a man drank at a bar to interact with another human, or at least pretend.
A thin, brown, line of powdery murk had settled at the bottom of his water glass after he had finished racking the table. He took a sip and surveyed the bar area. Nothing seemed different than it usually was. A few familiar drunk faces dotted the bar that he had seen here before.
He cracked the cue ball into the triangular arrangement, sending the rest of the balls careening all around the table. The tip of the pool stick felt too slick, so Adrian grabbed the small nub of blue colored chalk sitting nearby. Adrian loaded his cue tip and happened to look back towards the bar. He saw a man trying to offer the bartender a laundry credit for a drink.That was considered the lowest of low, even by the standards of the sloppiest drunks.
…”If you didn’t stink so terribly, I might take it, but you need a shower and a change of clothes more than you need another drink.” The bartender nodded to enunciate his point, then walked away to another person as he polished his glass.
The drunk swayed indignantly as he formulated his thoughts. He obviously was not having the bartenders decision. “My good sir, I’ll have you know that I created an algorithm that the Men at the Table themselves use! That alone should get me another glass… I demand respect!” He pounded his fist indignantly on the bar top.
The bartender called over to the man.”You’ve used that line one too many times here, friend. Go get a shower and wash the urine out of your clothes.” The entire bar laughed at the man as he slouched back on his stool. Adrian lined up his next shot and clacked the cue into the 9 ball, corner pocket. The ball hit it’s mark as the 9 klunked into the pit and audibly rolled through the void inside of the table. Satisfying.
The drunk man unashamedly continued.”Noble Bartender! I beseech thee to pity my plight!” (he slurred quite profusely as he attempted sound much more intelligent than he appeared.) The man sighed loudly as the bartender continued to ignore him, and his eyes wandered around the room. Adrian had made the mistake of catching the mans gaze.
“You there, boy!” He pointed at Adrian and began to walk with a crooked stumble in his general direction. The man lost his balance and shuffled precariously to his left for one, two, three steps, then his equilibrium reversed itself, causing him to stumble to his right a bit as he reached his destination and sloppily fell into the chair facing the pool table. “I’ll teach you the secrets of.. urp… life if you could spare but one drink for a poor soul.”
Adrian looked at the drunken disheveled man closer. He had sun darkened skin and curly gray hair. His facial hair matched his head, and his clothes were indeed stained, most likely from an uncontrolled bodily function like the bartender had referred to. He wore a pair of brown stained slacks, a tattered white undershirt, and a worn black suit jacket missing all buttons. He was a tall and thin man, and his clothes were too big and bunched at certain areas, making him appear clownish in attire. Both of his shoes had his toes poking out, and the legs of his pants didn’t quite reach his ankles.
Adrian was on the opposite side of the table from where the plastered man had situated himself. He cocked an eyebrow at the man, weighing the decision in his head if he should buy the fellow a drink. The intoxicated man regally sat up in the chair and grabbed the lapel of his ugly suit with either hand to straighten his jacket. The drunk put on his best smile, which in this state was rather pitiful.
“Now I can assure you young man, these are life altering secrets I am bargaining with. The very fact I would be willing to give them away for the cost of a mere pint, why it’s asinine! An utterly foolish move on my part, these secrets could change the course of your very existence.” His words flowed perfectly this time, and not a slur could be heard.
Adrian hated when strangers asked him for things. Many people could use a firm “no” once in a while. But Adrian really didn’t think that this man would be deterred by another “no” from him, and the man seemed entertaining enough to at least hear a story from. Obviously, he did not expect any secrets of life would come from the conversation, but it might be funny.
The old drunk smiled magnanimously and elegantly dropped more rhetoric to achieve his goals. “You seem like a smart young fellow, I am sure that my advice would not be wasted on a man of intelligence such as yourself. For the mere cost of a bit of drink, untold knowledge could be yours my young friend.”
Adrian laughed at the bravado and lengths the man was willing to go to. He made up his mind, and decided to buy a drink for him. Besides, if he bought the man a drink, the bartender would have to let him keep playing pool. He raised his hand for a pint to be brought over. “OK, sure, old man. Enlighten me on the secrets of life.”
“Ahhh, haha.” Said the old drunk,smiling a toothy grin of approval. “THIS man, is a gentleman of the highest degree. An obvious observer of wisdom, a genuine perceiver of intelligence!” He raised his voice and turned his head to let the other patrons hear the last bit. “A bonafide knight among peasants!” The man shakily rose from his chair and gave an inebriated bow towards Adrian as the bartender brought over the drink. “Not like… urp… THIS jackass!” he exclaimed, pointing towards the barman. The old drunk laughed at his joke while the bartender handed Adrian the whiskey pint, accepting the token Adrian offered through his HUD.
The bartender completely ignored the mockery from the drunk but shot Adrian an extremely dirty look. Adrian’s eyes widened in shock as the filthy drunk grabbed the pint from his hands and cracked it open, throwing it upwards and draining almost half of the bottle on his first pull. The bartender gave Adrian an “I told you so” look and walked back to polishing the same glass and swearing loudly this time.
“AHHHHH!” Reveled the old man as he flopped backwards into his chair, momentarily satisfied from the draft he had consumed. “Much better, indeed.” He muttered the last bit to himself as Adrian walked around the table and began to line up his next shot.
“Well old man? Are you gonna earn your drink or not?” Adrian laughed at the stupidity of it all as he cracked the cue into the 11, sending it clunking into the middle pocket. The bartender probably hated him now, maybe he would no longer be welcome here. Hopefully the man at least had something interesting to say.
“Ahhh, haha.” The drunks cheeks had gotten slightly rosier and he couldn’t quite make eye contact with Adrian, despite his best efforts. His eyes were sad but his smile was genuine. “Lesson one…urp… NEVER give your liquor away.” He giggled for a brief second at his own sage advice with the bottle at his lips. He then tipped it up and took another pull from the bottle.
Adrian shook his head and went back to studying his game. Fine. If the man just wanted to abuse his kindness, so be it. It wouldn’t ruin his morning. He had not given the man the bottle truly expecting anything. He pitied the man and had wanted to… well.. his initial thought was that he wanted to”help him” but that was quite hypocritical. Adrian had no idea what had prompted him.
The old man giggled to himself and sloppily wiped his mouth. “Oh, give over you crab apple! It’s a JOKE.” He swung his head around towards the rest of the people in the bar. “No one in this bar gets a good joke!” He changed his voice to a mocking and nasally tone. “Nobody listen, it’s just old Seba being drunk again.” He closed one eye, stuck out his tongue, poked his elbows out to his sides, and flapped them like a chicken. Nobody even bothered a glance his direction.
Seba didn’t seem to notice. He continued to mutter on a separate tirade that now had nothing to do with Adrian, complaining about several different names who must have also been regulars at the bar. Adrian cracked a smile as he continued to line up his shot.
The man saw the smile and shot a disapproving look at Adrian, most likely for laughing at the wrong time. He absentmindedly began to unscrew the cap to the whiskey bottle that he had just screwed tight not 10 seconds before. The intoxicated gentleman in the oversize clothes took another pull and when he brought it down, only 1/3rd of the bottle was remaining. It had been in his hands all of two minutes.
“Here is your second bit of advice,young man. Never laugh at a man when he has fallen on hard times. In 10 years you could be me, you know.” Adrian’s smile fell from his face as he really had no intentions of offending the man.
“Sir, I was laughing at your dance.”
Seba flapped his hands at him in an exasperated manner and interrupted with a loud “AHHH i’m just drunk. Here is your second bit of advice- Don’t take a drunk seriously.” Adrian smirked again as he bent over the table again to line up his cue.
“Seba? Is that your name? I have never heard your story. You said you developed an algorithm for the Men at the Table, eh? That sounds like a tale, I would like to hear it.” Adrian’s smirk returned as he shot again, this time sinking the final ball in the corner.
Seba’s head lolled from side to side as he squinted down. “Ohhhhh, yessss…” He began to slur as he glanced at the remaining liquid in the bottle. Adrian could tell by the look on the man he was contemplating the remaining amount. A look of anguish flashed on his face when he remembered that this was most likely the absolute last bit of liquor for the day. He sighed miserably as he unscrewed the cap and took a long and deliberate sip.Slowly the bottle crept upwards as he savored the final remaining bit of alcohol, finally emptying it completely and shaking out the last remaining drops on his tongue. He swallowed and let out another deep sigh.
“Ah, the algorithm. Much of my young life was spent locked away in my room, typing away on a computer and learning to code. The algorithm I developed ended up as the bane of my existence, it’s funny how life can work that way. It was my dream that never became reality.” Seba longingly looked at the bottle,obviously wishing it was full again. Adrian began to re-rack the table as old man shifted in his chair.
“I was to have a life of a Silver Citizen, you know… Heh, politics always ruins everything. It’s a terrible business. I can admit I lost at the game when I had my opportunity. The algorithm I made was groundbreaking. Looking back I could have had the world for it.”
“What did the algorithm do?”Adrian smacked the cue ball as hard as he could to break the triangle of balls across the table. Several found their way into various pockets; it was a good shot, one of the best this morning.
“Ohhhh….” Seba had sheepishly dropped his head. “To this day I look back and wonder on what drove me to make such a thing… the lust for power and wealth I suppose.And women! Have you ever smelled the scent of a woman?” Adrian had. The desire for the right to court a woman had been what had driven him to study so hard lately. A slight feeling of guilt crept over him for being at the bar instead of studying right now.
Seba continued in a pitiful and ashamed manner. “I could never explain the full intricacies of my algorithm, but I know what I did…I didn’t even get the benefits from my creation.” He began to sob slightly at the last thought. He had leaned lazily to one side, with one hand rubbing at his face in an attempt to bring some of the feeling back and take away the blurriness of his vision. His bloodshot eyes glossily looked off into the distance as his grimy Bronze Triangle barely stood out against the dirtiness of his face. The liquor was getting to him now. Adrian had thought the man would sip on it, not down the whole pint in 5 minutes.
Adrian prodded to get the story out of him. “You mentioned something about politics… How did you get your algorithm stolen?” Adrian found it harder and harder to believe the old man. But who knows. How would a man look who had lost everything? He spoke quite formally and gave the intellectual appearance of being well educated; He just smelled like piss and looked like a bum.
Seba’s eyes lit up and he immediately straightened his back in the chair. “Ahhh, I will gladly tell you the full and uninterrupted tale, young man, gladly. It is a story of love and betrayal, of war and conquest. Dare I say a novel of the most extravagant sort could be created with my life story, and you can hear it for the mere cost of a pint of this establishments finest whiskey.” The slurring had returned, this time much more pronounced.
The pity for the man started to mix with a bit of anger. Adrian stopped looking at his game and studied Seba for a moment. Beneath this sloppy appearance was nothing more than a pathological drunk, completely convinced that his story was true. Adrian had no doubt the man could make up a fantastic story. Adrian had had enough. He left the few remaining balls on the table and put the pool cue on the rack.
“That’s ok, Seba. Thanks for the story. Have a great day.” He nodded and smiled to the bewildered and stammering Seba, then quickly started to walk away from the table before he could respond. Adrian began hurrying towards the front door, thinking he had made his escape quickly and efficiently. He had almost made it when the bartender blocked his path a few steps before the exit. “You gave him more liquor, now he’s your responsibility.I’m not cleaning up his piss again, i’ll call the Judicators this time I swear I will. Get him out of…. AHHH!”
The bartender shoved Adrian out of the way as old Seba had begun to relieve himself in the corner of the bar, not 5 feet from the door to the bathroom.
The smell emanating from Seba was worse than anything Adrian had ever smelled in his life. Adrian had the man half slung over his shoulder as he virtually carried him down the street and away from the bar.
He had to plead with the bartender to allow him to clean up the urine and not call the Judicators- Seba’s death would have assuredly been on his conscience, even though it wouldn’t have REALLY been his fault. Seba was now mostly incoherent, giggling and babbling to himself as his legs half dragged behind him.
“Link your HUD with mine so I can get you home.” Adrian sternly prodded Seba with his finger several times until after about 30 seconds the drunken man finally managed to focus his vision enough to accept Adrian’s request. He lived fairly close, which was good because Adrian felt like vomiting from the odor.
Seba began to babble again as they pair lurched along. “….bluuuurrrrgh….I could have been a Man at the Table you know..”
“I know you could have old man. Your algorithm. Blah blah.”
Seba responded with a slurred and indignant tone. “Don’t patronize me young man, you stand a good chance of becoming me. I know you don’t believe my story, I don’t care. The man who stole my algorithm is a Man at the Table.”
That was the second time Seba had told him that it was possible for Adrian to end up exactly like him. He angrily buried the thought. Never. He would never let himself turn into a drunken slob like this. The man was lucky he was kind enough to help him, he should be thanking Adrian. Not chiding him and comparing the two of them. Adrian made up his mind that the man has wasted his faculties away to nothing, and tuned his nonsense out for the rest of the short walk. He shrugged the intoxicated man off of him at his doorstep, then turned and went about his business without so much as a glance backwards.
It had happened that the small adventure burned the morning away until past lunch time. He was required to be alone in his dwelling for announcements to earn meal credits, which had started around the time he had returned Seba to his home. He was in a terribly foul mood for missing lunch, and so he rushed home to close the blinds and try and relax. To drown the sorrow he decided it was fine to waste away his afternoon in virtual reality. It was much easier to forget your needs when you could be an absolute master in your own domain.
Adrian would sometimes enjoy shooting games, but the limited space in his apartment made those more suitable for walking around outdoors. Instead of action games, he usually preferred to create worlds by painting in virtual reality.His entire room could be decorated and painted a different color, or landscapes could be created far off in the distance to admire and observe. He couldn’t touch them, they weren’t real, but they LOOKED real.
He loved to sit on a virtual mountaintop cross legged, (which was really on his bed) and gaze at the formations that stretched out for virtual miles in front of him.Sometimes it would be from the top of a tree in a forest, and he would relish in the autumn colors of red and yellow burning through the tree tops.
He would not allow himself to feel the wind though. He could have, there was a modification for it. The disingenuousness was just too creepy for Adrian. The Interface could trick your senses into feeling almost anything. He would simply watch and listen to all of the sounds, from birds chirping to the trees swaying, everything was simulated to what he imagined was accurate. All of that seemed to be enough of a lie, since he wasn’t able to actually experience it.
Before he knew it, dinner had arrived.The evening announcement was much less formal, and this time included a skit with some puppets trying their best to become Silver Citizens.In the end of the skit, one of the puppets had made it to Silver by becoming a Judicator. All of the puppets in the immersive virtual reality surrounding him cheered. Adrian sat there blankly waiting for his food credit.
It was a whirlwind of a day, and nothing of interest came up when he met Icar at dinner in the cafeteria, aside from Icar wondering where he had been at lunch. Adrian recanted the story to Icar’s amusement, which ended up with both of them laughing at the whole situation. Adrian was too tired from missing lunch, he politely declined when Icar invited him a second time to go to the Temple that evening. He promised to meet up with him first thing in the morning and they could hang out then.
And just like that, another day was over. He accepted his sorely missed D.O.S.E. For the evening with extra relish, the stupor he found himself in had him back at his dwelling 20 minutes after dinner. He flopped in his bed and began watching comedic stand ups through his HUD, chuckling in harmony with the laugh tracked audience until well after midnight.
Adrian finally caved and shut his HUD down. “Tomorrow will be more productive,” he said to himself as he rolled under the covers and let his thoughts drift off to sleep.
Next Chapter: https://throwersbook.com/chapter-5-rough-draft/