Hey everyone this is the first draft of the new novel ‘Kabir Unveiled’. The first draft is subject to change. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.
“Are you a man dreaming that you are a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming you’re a man?” – Zhuangzi
Breathing in the approximation of what pure oxygen smelled like– Kabir Goldleaf gulped down his fifth drink. The amber trickled down his beard. It doesn’t matter that he was on the job. There was always time for a drink.
His mutated dark eyes stared into the empty glass. He was trying to ignore the eyes that were following him at the bar. The NuModern had a reputation for being the scummiest place in the galaxy, and they knew Kabir wasn’t one of them.
“Don’t worry folks I’m not a cop.” He belched. No one responded.
There were indescribable creatures hovering around him. Some playing zero-eight balls, some gambling, some drinking in silence, and others drowning in the lingering smoke of Purple Mother’s tears (he knew the unmistakable musky scent). It was a small bar but packed enough to where you can hide.
“Will there be anything else?” The bartender asked. His cockroach-like antennas modulated as he spoke.
“Been looking for a Vitruvian. Goes by K’Lulla .”
“A lot of Vitruvians go by here.”
“You’re not gonna make it easy for me, huh?” He sighed. “There’s some Hash in it for you.”
“How much are we talking?”
“Well, it depends on the information–“
“Is she tall purple with pink spike-like hair, green-beady eyes, three dots on her right cheek, and a long tail?”
“She’s right behind me, huh?”
Kabir turned around. The Vitruvian placed a cloak on herself. She looked at him and stuck out a forked tongue as she bolted through the swinging door. Kabir shot right after her. His black trench coat made a whooshing sound.
“Hey!” The bartender yelled.
“Put it on my tab,” Kabir said with his head poking out from the door.
Kabir followed after her. The streets smelled like burning rubber. Neon blue and red lights followed her upwards on the slope. The domed space station has a brilliant view of the galaxy. It was hard to imagine that only a thin layer of glass was separating them from the vastness of the cosmos. He shakes his head to focus on the Vitruvian. He soon realized everything was becoming a blur: the drinks are catching up to him. He signaled the mass of bodies to move away from him.
“Stop! I just want to talk.” He said, out of breath.
“Oh! Fuck it!” He said, still trying to keep pace with her and getting lost in the crowd. “Oogi, you’re up.”
To hear is to obey, Master. A voice said in the back of his mind, as a small translucent octopus-like creature emerged from his trench coat, scuttling its way toward his left swinging arm with ease. Once, Oogi reached his wrist, it diffused and merged with his left hand.
Ready when you are, Master.
“Here goes nothing.” He pointed his left hand and five long tentacles shot at her. They missed.
“Is that the best you got?” She turned around to sneer.
“Don’t worry, I got more tricks.” He said breathlessly. “Oogie, let’s go for a run.”
Kabir jumped pointing his left hand down and the tentacle shot him upwards. He was ten feet high as the tentacles were mimicking legs, galloping after her. They had closed the distance dramatically.
“The chase is up. You can’t beat me.”
“Oh, please do you really think you’re the only one who’s been after me?” She said, without being winded at all. “I eat bounty hunters like you for breakfast.”
“I never knew that Vitruvians ate Bounty hunters. I guess you learn something new every day, huh?” He said, almost in striking distance.
“That’s not what I meant.” She said, “By the way, drone.”
“Hunh?” He noticed the drone too late. It made a head-splitting noise. His entire body plummeted to the ground. Oogi was able to use his tentacles to cushion the fall. It was a knockout blow. Before he blacked-out Goldleaf noticed from the corner of his eye, K’Lulla blew him a kiss and from her lip movements she might have said:
“Dream of me again.” He had lost her.
“Untether me please,” something in his head whispered.
He heard a strange whooshing sound before he lost consciousness.
He woke up. The DreamMask© wrapping its eight-legged limbs on his face. The sweat droplets poured into his dark eyes– the saltiness burns. Rolling off his stained pillow, the disembodied voice replied:
He sat up prying open its crab-like grip, digging out its legs from his orifices and hurling it on the side.
“Fuck, how long was I surfing?” Kabir cleaned the residue from his mouth.
“8 hours, 22 minutes, and 09 seconds” It replied.
“Oh God! I’m gonna be late.” He collapsed on the bed again.
He was dreading this day. He was invited to an in-person meeting with his boss. He took his time to get ready. A self-indulgent shower. He slicked his long unkempt hair. He chose to keep his beard unruly as it attains the heights reserved for holy men.
He wolfed down his favorite brand of genetically modified eggs and washed it down with liquid that chemically resembled milk. He shuffled through his small closet that is somehow enclosed in a smaller, dirtier apartment. The only good thing was the view of Satori city. He can partially see the interconnected skyline, large buildings linked with epileptic lights visible only until the smog storm appears.
He fished out the electric blue suit he wore months ago. He made his way out of the apartment that was owned by the Pangea Corporation: Kabir’s employer. The hallways made him nervous. Like a corridor into other worlds and judging by the occupants, not places he wanted to explore. He entered the elevator unscathed by human interaction. He clicked on the button repeatedly. It finally opened. He sighed with relief when there wasn’t a soul inside.
The streets are densely packed: crowds of people hit him like a heatwave of anxiety. He fumbled for his AugiGoggles©, his palms already started to get sweaty. His augmented vision envelops the world in a blur of color and now the pixelated objects don’t fill him with dread– the real world becomes bearable. The sky became a calm shade of burning yellow and the people became moving pop-art images on the verge of melting.
The roads are clogged with autonomous vehicles that look like hexagonal matchboxes, street performers eating fire, vagabonds with funky haircuts, and someone walking their pet pink flamingos. Other people were wearing the same kind of shades. They too had created their own augmented reality. The large panelled surfaces started showing programming, as any flat surface could become a television screen. Commercials were floating across his eye line. There were other settings that allowed users to experience things that they had never seen before. He wondered what other people’s augmented reality looked like? He shuddered at the thought of being caught in someone else’s altered vision.
(C) A.R. Minhas 2022