A raven-haired woman seized his hand and led him to the hot tub overlooking the City of Angels. Her bare feet fell silent on the polished travertine tile of the outdoor patio. The lazy, midday sun reclined in the heavens, casting warm, gentle light on the frothing surface of the water. Perched high above the magnificent sprawl of the City, the secluded patio was a private oasis amidst the encroaching Desert.

The woman eased herself into the water and rested her arms on the edge of the hot tub. Tepid foam bubbled to the surface, caressing the ample surface of her breasts. She cocked her head and stared directly at him with quizzical, Byzantine eyes. Golden hoops clung to her ears, bobbing erratically with the motions of her head.

Come inside, darling. Don’t be shy.

He searched for a response but nothing came to mind. His legs began to twitch. She continued to stare at him, bemused.

What’s the matter, baby? Don’t tell me you haven’t done this before.

His chest grew heavy and it became difficult to breath. He felt as if he were about to fall over.

It’s okay. There’s a first time for everything.

The woman reached behind her back and began to toy with the clasp of her purple bikini top. With the clasp undone, she started to raise the top off her chest, centimeter by agonizing centimeter. Her supple flesh revealed itself to him and the entire world went dark.

God damn it.

He sprung up from his tiny mattress and couldn’t see a thing. He waved his hands in front of him until he felt the cold plastic of the VR headset affixed to his face. With a deft motion, he flung the headset off and onto the mattress beside him. He stumbled to his feet and tore open the drawer of the adjacent nightstand. The charger wasn’t there.

He made his way down the stairs of his apartment building and into the dim lobby. The walls of the lobby were filled from floor to ceiling with bright orange lockers. A central kiosk with a touch display sat in the middle of the rows of lockers. The queue for the kiosk stretched out the door and around the corner of the building.

He took his place in the back of the queue, some two blocks from the lobby. Another queue, a mirror image, could be seen across the street. The people stood silent with their eyes affixed to their mobile devices.

An hour passed. Then two hours. The queue didn’t seem to move. Above, small orange drones flitted between the towering apartment buildings. Some carrying bright orange boxes wafted into the lobby of his building. Others emerged from the lobby and disappeared into the grey sky.

Another hour passed. The line began to move. He looked up from his mobile device and turned around. The queue stretched as far as he could see. A meek, mousy looking girl stood behind him staring at her mobile device. She looked young and had a dull brown color to her hair. She didn’t look up.

He thought of saying something to her, maybe even asking her name. She was cute in a bookish sort of way. Nothing that inspired ravishing lust, but cute enough. He thought for a long time about what it would be like to talk to her. Would she like him? Would she laugh? Would she cry? An orange drone buzzed by his ear and he turned around and inched forward in line.

He couldn’t stop thinking about the girl behind him. She hadn’t looked up from her mobile device. He turned his head around again and looked at her. He wanted to say something, anything. He would ask her how the weather was. That would work. It was always cold, but it would at least get her to respond to him.

He turned around fully and began opening his mouth. She didn’t seem to notice. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a rainbow-colored police cruiser careen down the street. He turned back around and pulled out his mobile device. The cruiser rolled by the expanding queue outside of his apartment and down the street.

It was time. He reached the front of the queue and typed his order for a new VR charger into the touchscreen. An orange drone drifted into the lobby carrying a small bright orange box. He keyed the code into his personal locker and procured the bright orange box. He walked with great haste up the apartment stairs to his room.

His door wouldn’t open. He entered his code again, but the door was stuck. He could hear hideous, inhuman noises emanating from his room: a grotesque cacophony of yelling, screaming, and moaning. He pushed the door to his room once more and it swung open.

Writhing, shrieking flesh poured out from his apartment. A horrible homunculus of squirming reproductive parts bound together in an ungodly mound of oozing, reeking anatomy emerged before his virgin eyes. The abomination groaned in both male and female voices, pulsating on the carpet before him. Its fleshy tendrils of diseased genitalia, undulating orifices, and putrid skin screeched and creeped forward.

He tried in vain to shut the door, but the thing had escaped. He sprinted down the hallway for the stairs and threw open the door. The stairs had turned to flesh. Slamming the door, he turned around and came face to face with the hulking monstrosity. He screamed and the entire world went dark.

Catapulting up off the tiny mattress, he reached into the darkness in front of his face and cast off the VR headset. He sat in the darkness alone for quite some time. Hours went by and his nerves were beginning to calm. He looked through the drawer of the nightstand but could not find his charger. He got up and started for the door. The door swung open and on the carpet before him rested a small, bright orange box.