- Guy Martyr
'La Dolce Vita' a novel by Guy Martyr 13.
La Dolce Vita instalment 13 of 20
' WELCOME TO THE CENTRE, YOUR ENTERTAINMENT, INFO-MUSEMENT AND SHOPPING COMPLEX, VIRTUAL MUSEUM, REAL-IMAGINATION ARENA AND PLEASURE DOME '
"They're not modest, then" observed Horatio, reading the welcome sign as he and Vicki engaged the glass portal, a huge entrance through a towering glass wall, like a crystal palace. They felt the frisson of meeting that for which they had wished for so long, having followed closely for so many months the adverts and hype of The Centre's building and eventual opening, but never having found the time together to go and visit it. It was the biggest EIS complex in the Continent. Horatio had had a sniff at being in on the building project, but had by then chosen the Trans-Hab path, not without some misgiving - Enfo-shopping had a big future. But not only professional interest had brought Horatio and Victoria here: the sheer opportunity at self-fulfilment was a fascination. Even though, as self-consciously sophisticated and educated, they could rationalise, or perceive, a hesitation in this homage, the social noise surrounding The Centre was so loud, so compelling, it was impossible to do anything but conform, and smile, if you had the Credit to do so, in the face of the enterprise.
And smile they did: their long-promised outing together consummated in a high-tech-organic, transparent, paradise, escorted by fanfares and smiling, roller-bladed escorts: bewildered visitors, guided through the cavernous atrium; look up up up to
the . . . sky! amid hanging gardens of Babylon, birds, sculptures, giant screens.
What to look at? Where to focus?
"Today's Events" pointed Victoria to one of the wrap-around plasma screens, forming a pillar on the floor.
" 'March of the Fashion Fascists' eleven am: just about, now" she mouthed, and - in they came! Doors clattered open from the exterior amid massive fanfare, the two lines: one of pencil-thin, tall, toned, perfectly-formed female models; the other of equally tall, toned and muscular men, all marching in step, bearing a fixed, expressionless smile, each dressed exquisitely, to make you bleed with envy, to die, there, on the spot, in delirious, unfulfilled wanting.
The advancing column was flanked by busy messengers dressed in sub-military uniform, accosting the crowds which drew near with offers from the commercial enterprises concerned and even, to those showing a higher degree of interest associated with sartorial potential, information on the Movement itself. This information contained, inter alia, guidance on the stringent body requirements demanded for membership; these had become the stuff of legend. "You probably could get in, looking like that, but to be sure I would enrol on a toning, tamping and trimming course; we also have a special offer covering certain cosmetic procedures . . . " Or, "No, no, no! I'm surprised they even let you in here. You're beyooond . . . " And not much in between.
Horatio and Victoria took the view in, looked at each other, then left, before a messenger could catch them.
They found themselves in a tube-like walkway, copper-dark and fragrant with plants, heading towards 'City Experience', a 20th century city, viewed, thankfully, through glass walls. They hurried through: the dirt, the clutter, the implausibility (self-directing carriages!) put them off; in fact it was a little bit frightening.
"Let's go shopping" said Vicki.
They pursued a sign, this time on a moving path: 'SHOPPING' it said.
Beside the entrance to their chosen mall, as at all mall entrances, beckoned a first stop: 'PORNOGRAPHY'. "Would you like to view some pornography, Vicki?" asked Horatio, without any interest, expecting the same in return, but who was surprised to hear "Yes, all right then."
They entered the portal, and followed a dark corridor lined each side with windows, each suffused with a red gleam: looking in at a window gave you a film, showing continuously, depicting a labelled type of sexual activity, or perhaps a display of sexual apparatus, available for purchase, or discs, or clothing. Victoria glanced along and stopped before a window showing 'Ménage à trois'; Horatio sauntered alongside, to look with her at some gymnastic-looking enterprise involving two women and a man. "What have you come to look at this for?" he asked. "Oh, I don't know" she said. "I don't think it need look so ugly, do you?" and smiled, and walked off into the shopping area proper, Horatio trailing.
They lay back on the sofa at home, bags let fall, exhausted but happy. What a lovely day together!
Lying in each other's arms, Horatio made a grab for the remote control, entered a code, and . . . in came the two-foot-high robot, with tea perfectly made in its head. They fell about laughing at this ridiculous, never-used thing, a wedding present from a forgotten friend whose time had come!
Horatio received another posting the next morning: a little computerised bleep with his cornflakes drew his attention to a communication from Resource Allocation: "Where now?" he thought and Victoria said. "It's about time they released you." "Yes . . . the Country, er, Organisation, needs me . . . er, people." "You've been doing this for nearly six months now. Can't you do something?" she said, and then, with inspiration, "I know! . . . " "Not Daddy!" "No, but I could try to speak to Jack Wylie." "How do you know Wylie? Come to think of it, he told me he was with you, or something, some time ago, when I was away . . . "
But Horatio had pressed 'open', and his attention was taken, so the matter faded away, for now.
"The North!" they both exclaimed.
"What does it say?" Vicki was eager to see.
Horatio scanned: "blah blah blah . . . experience in camp
building . . . temporary accommodation . . . It seems I'm to run a camp for temporary residents and newly arrived residents, of a whole sector of north England - Sector 15. Oh, look, I'm allowed to take my carriage this time - very nice of them - but only as far as the carriage-way extends . . . which is . . . Doncaster."
"That's not much good, is it? What will you do then? Where have you got to get to?"
"I've somehow got to get to York; then further transport will be provided . . . I don't know who thought this one up . . . "
Horatio, though, was beginning slightly to relish this part of his captivity - if it turned out as it was appearing, he may at last be able to construct a meaningful Transitional Habitation site. He had heard so much about the North: mixed messages admittedly - the deportations - no, not surely deportations; if the people were, well, Economically Inefficient, they could not expect to live in the economic hot-house of London and the South: they would be much happier in the North. Looked at in the right way, it was an expansive land of opportunity. Tales of brigandage, foreign invaders, retreat of authority - this was merely exaggeration, some kind of exhortation to make people work a bit harder . . . No, it couldn't be that bad . . . As for talk of de-affiliation of the Northern counties, or even of expulsion - more hype, for the benefit of interested groups. The Danish enclave at Berwick-on-Tweed was a fly in the ointment, no more.
"Ratty, Darling . . . " Victoria was trying to rouse Horatio from his dreaming. " What shall I do when you're gone?"
"Keep away from Simon and Caz's for a start."
"It wasn't their fault . . . " Victoria sounded unconvinced.
"And Jack Wylie - you never told me what you were doing
together . . . "
"I did bump into him: he was at lunch at Daddy and Mummy's - they slightly know him. He took me afterwards to see the site for . . . "
"For his new house, it's by the river Thames."
"New house? He told me he was completely committed to Transitional Habitation! - to live in constant movement, constant flow, free of material shackles . . . "
"The shell is up . . . it's enormous . . . there was no one there . . . He took me inside . . . " Victoria was trembling slightly now, almost tearful. Horatio stared at her. "What happened? . . . " he said, tenderly.
"He was leaning, over me, . . . over-bearing . . . I didn't quite
realise . . . I think he was going to, wanted to . . . But then his communicator rang - it was you! my Darling, you! It seemed to bring him back to normality . . . but I felt awful, as if it had been my
fault . . . "
"No, no . . . " Horatio was truly comforting; Victoria was, among her tears, becoming soft, pliable in his arms; their cheeks were close, gone were their bad thoughts, or put away till later. Victoria fell back in Horatio's arms; he pushed aside the breakfast things on the table and laid her compliant body there, she the servant to his masterful assertion . . .