by Paul du Preez
Darren is sure about two things.
One: even in 2035 a vintage Stratocaster has more status than a virtual drum-pad.
Two: He is as good a Christian as du-rag. Better, if he doesn’t get hung up on Jesus’ ‘whoever has fantasies of braining his brother with an axe’ thing. Reckons if he doesn’t actually do it he’s in the clear.
Du-rag, though, is obviously guilty of committing adultery in his heart with Leandré, Darren’s sister. Heart-rape more like it. Because Leandré isn’t interested.
Darren hopes she isn’t interested.
Pastor Arendse was wearing bug-eyed, deep-focus stereoptics along with haptic gloves and boots. And surgical mask – because of the virus. He was on a private channel, talking to a giant neon-yellow banana.
Because du-rag is prancing around like a hyper-active, leg-humping Jack Russell. Carelessly getting his back-end in Darren’s face. Or would be if Darren wasn’t a head taller.
“Good work axe-boy. Now let the rapper wrap it up,” is what du-rag had bellowed when he charged on stage, bulling Darren back from the mic.
Not that Darren was a mic-man. Or even a pro guitarist. He just happened to have drifted up close to the mic. He was a computer-science student. And just liked his flash-metal, and was somewhere close to ecstasy and the climax of his solo when du-rag bulled him.
Darren didn’t think of himself as temperamental by nature: he thought of himself as a ‘philosophical guy’. So he backed up, toned down, and started picking out a neat little riff – like a good brother should – and watched du-rag prance.
At his sister.
But he couldn’t be sure. So he took a long, slow, philosophical look round the rest of the auditorium.
Ever since the virus, church had been empty. Like a replay of Covid 19 in 2020. Except, this time, in ‘35, Pastor Arendse was prepared to go virtual; ready for it – had been for a couple of years. A good thing (from the point of view of history not repeating itself) because a lot of smaller churches went to the butcher’s block in ‘20, bleeding cash, gutted by government lockdowns and scared congregations. Arendse’s own church, ‘The Compass’ had died, and he’d lost everything, had to beg, had been forced back into his old trade as a singer on the entertainment circuit – when the world eventually started turning again.
But he’d made good his debts, started over, The Compass resurrected and online.
Half-out, half-in Virtual Reality.
Most churches nowadays, mega or mini, had a virtual component. A no-brainer considering 2-5G connectivity. And, smart Augmented Reality glasses were everywhere – common as phones in ‘20. Not quite as effective as ‘full-dive’ Virtual Reality haptic suits and total-environment helmets, but still pretty immersive.
Pastor Arendse was wearing a compromise kit: bug-eyed, deep-focus stereoptics along with haptic gloves and boots. And surgical mask – because of the virus. He was on a private channel, talking to a giant neon-yellow banana. Darren couldn’t hear him (though he could see his mouth moving under the mask). All that Darren could hear was the band’s driving music, and the room feed: whoops of encouragement filtering from the crowd. Most of them were virtual, roughly split between fantasy avatars and enhanced holograms of actual people… (Whoa, look at that, thought Darren, eyeing the rendering of a forbiddingly beautiful woman in a dark business suit, before snapping loose his stare and wandering on to two Winnie the Poohs in close conversation with a translucent octopus who was having boundary definition issues.)
…Most of the crowd were virtual, but some of the faithful were, by necessity of ‘live concert’, really there. Leandré was really there. Along with some of her girlfriends and their beaux, and some real chairs too, and a table.
And she had du-rag’s attention. He was free-styling, and in between rhymes about God being his backup and his ‘bra’, he dropped a few about ‘spirit got serious booty’ and ‘come like inspiration in the night’. Then, on the crest of a spandex, pelvic wriggle, he emoted something about ‘the doggette-baby with the front row seat’ and how his dreams might all come true. Underneath her sanitary mask Darren saw Leandré’s jaw twitch. One side only: more likely a grimace than a smile, he reckoned – as she brought the other hand up to the side of her face. Her eyes stayed unreadable behind smoky AR glasses, but she started talking to one of her girlfriends. Intensely.
It gave Darren hope.
Pastor Arendse Talking to a Giant Banana by Paul du Preez
Angel Wings by Sergei Tomakov on Pixabay https://pixabay.com/illustrations/angel-wings-fairy-isolated-4870050/
Intro Music (on Podcast)
Excerpt from Black, White and Blue by Paul du Preez
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Syblings the Syrial is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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