Do koalas drink colas with cocoa?

Lee squirmed under Bai’s control.

She found more knots in his shoulder muscles and worked on them over and over, one by one, zeroing in on a knot’s kernel core and driving a finger or elbow in to break the knot apart.

Lee wanted to shout but kept quiet, allowing the pain to pulse through his body.

He suddenly saw himself driving through a subdivision outside downtown Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, on the way from the Old Ground Hotel to the office in Shannon. He remembered seeing Irish drivers lining up on the main road, waiting thirty minutes to get to and through an intersection. Lee experimented each morning for a week until he found side roads that passed in and out of subdivisions and carparks, cutting the drive time down to ten minutes from city centre to dual carriageway.

He raised his legs in the air, trying to escape Bai’s grip on him, literally and figuratively.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure?”

“Maybe.”

“Okay. Sit up. Time to take a break, anyway. Drink some water.”

Lee looked at the clock. Bai had been working on him for 37 minutes. He drank from the measuring cup she handed him.

“Feeling better?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. Move around. How does it feel?”

Lee rolled his shoulders. The stiffness was gone. “Hmnh…it…it feels great. Sorry I don’t sound so enthusiastic. It’ll feel even better tomorrow when the torture is over.”

“Thanks. Roll over on your stomach. I need to work on your back. How long do you want me to go?”

“As long as you think.”

“Great. I’ve got more work to do than I can get done in an hour.”

“Sorry, Alaur!”

“No problem. I’ve got to finish folding her clothes, don’t I? Bai, I don’t know how you pack your bags.”

“Here, I’ll show you. Lee, just relax and quit raising your shoulders. I’ll be right back.”

Lee checked his smartphone.

Unbeknownst to Bai, Lee ran a side business that dealt solely in audiovisual stimulation. A private contractor had hired Lee as a consultant for a secret project, an immersion technology planned for release in theatres, supplementing 3d glasses with cardionervous system feedback devices meant to read people’s bodies and instantly align their thought patterns and body functions with the on-screen character(s) their bodies indicated they most sympathised with and/or desired.

Initial tests had shown that audience members could actually recall sights, smells and sounds from the film as if they’d been on-screen in filmed scenes themselves.

A message on his phone told him that some audience members were experiencing unusual side effects, as if they could read the thoughts of the actors as they struggled to stay in character while surrounded by lighting, crew, camera and soundstage equipment rather than the imagined scenery and characters portrayed for entertainment purposes. The contractor was worried about lawsuits.

Lee told the contractor to simply include a more encompassing disclaimer about the total experience, stating that depending on your work in such fields as the film industry and/or psychology industry, your level of suspending disbelief would give you a unique perspective that cannot be duplicated with any other entertainment device available on the market — satisfaction guaranteed that your 5D Immersion would be yours and yours alone or your money back.

When they first worked on this idea, they decided that everyone on the project had to tell people they were former drug users in order to throw people off course, unable to guess that the technology the project team was developing was much more precise than even the best designer drugs, with little to no downtime, susceptible to abuse by addictive personalities at about the same rate as gambling, smoking, drug use, gaming and social media political chattering.

Lee put the phone back in his coat pocket.

Bai returned to see Lee resting on the massage table, his chin on the lip of the face hole, avoiding another asphyxiation.

“Your back looks so much better! It really shows how the work I’ve done on you has paid off!”

Lee mumbled affirmatively.

He watched through the hole in the massage table as her black-painted toenails, framed by the wood struts and wires of the table, walked into view, each big toe covered with a five-petaled hand painted flower and the cuticle lined with blingy crystals.

She finished an episode of “Witches of East End” and started an episode of “Sleepy Hollow” on the tellie.

Alaur brushed by Lee’s hip as she scooted between the sofa and the massage table.

Lee could see Alaur’s alluring purple-and-black eye shadow in his thoughts. What if…

A moment later, his thoughts vanished again as Bai pressed her whole body weight into a point on his back. He stopped breathing. He entered a transient trance, another fleeting glimpse of life outside the four dimensions of space and time. His heart pumped arrhythmically, restarting and restarting like a car with a gummed-up carburetor.

Bai realised Lee had stopped breathing. “Breathe!”

The trance was broken. Lee had wanted to stay in the trance but attempted a breath to please the woman, a foot shorter than he, domineering over him.

Lee had entered trance states only a few times before, rarely without pharmacological assistance.

In this particular trance, Lee saw the energy traces connecting people and things. Most significantly, he saw they were nameless.

He also saw a crossroads in the future he could reach by answering a single question one way or the other.

But which question? Planning a pro-am dance competition with Bai in February? Dancing into the late night with her at an event in January? Letting her work on his hips when she returned a month later so she could get his spine straighter?

In the trance, Lee saw his love for Bai had been and remained timeless, sensing something in her the first moment they met and she began to describe all of her dance instructors as Lee encouraged her to give him her life history to write about, fascinated by the exotic nature of a wild but tame animal in front of him.

Lee wasn’t a believer in past lives but he knew that some people had a way of connecting that made them feel as if they had already been close companions upon their first meeting.

Lee wanted to discount these connections, unable to accept that his flawed personality was not so very much flawed and his connections with others was truly wonderful because of perceived/real flaws and life scars, not despite them.

He just didn’t expect Bai to have this effect on him. He thought Guin was the reason for his recent happiness.

To be continued…

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