Just then, Barry and Lefty came splashing in the front door. As always, they were accompanied by a pair of gorgeous females. I pushed the button and rolled the walls back down. I needed to back Eddie up, in case there was trouble. Eddie checked behind the bar to make sure he had his gun. My Trip Chamber sunk into the floor and I splattered my way back to the front lobby.
“You wouldn’t believe what we just saw,” gushed Barry. The thoughts entered my mind before the horrible squealing of his voice filled the room. His companions squealed in a disharmonious screech.
“This woman, out front, just got smashed with a piano that fell from some higher level,” he added. “I never seen anything like that before”.
Eddie and I hurried out the front door and, just as we had been told, the jellied remains of some person lay squashed underneath a demolished Grand Piano.
I called the cops.
While we waited, I asked Barry and Lefty if they knew anything about the woman. They said no, but I didn’t believe them.
“Barry, I’ve known you for years,” I said. “I’ve never known you to be anything but a criminal and a liar.”
“People change,” he said.
“Did you ever hear the Flitwick story?” I asked him.
“You’ve bored me to death with that one, George. I know….. Sam Spade told Brigid O’Shaughnessy the story of the real estate salesman that was nearly killed by a steel beam that fell from a construction site and he started a new life. Blah. Blah Blah.”
“Did Flitwick change?”
“It’s a goddam story,” he said.
“Whatever you say, Barry. Whatever you say. I’d be surprised if you weren’t behind that murder out front.”
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep that to yourself. The police will be here in a minute.
“They know you. They’ll pin it on you.”
“I ought to kick your ass,” he said.
I lowered myself into a defensive position. “Try it, octopus.”
“People with dirty mouths get them washed out.”
“I’m just telling you the truth and you know it.”
It was tense for a couple minutes. Pretty soon, the cops arrived.
There was a great amount of huffing and puffing. Accusations were tossed about.
The police left.
We went back to our business.
“You don’t like me, do you?” asked Barry.
“No, I don’t,” I said.
“But you like my money, don’t you?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“I can take my business somewhere else,” he said.
I knew he was just acting tough. Mine was the only Brain Bar in town, so I said, “Go ahead.”
A bus dropped off a bunch of squids and they were queing up in the front. “Better make your decision soon,” I said, “or you’ll miss your Trip.”
Barry and Lefty gave me evil looks, but signaled to Eddie that they were ready. The foursome sloshed their way to the back of the bar. I greeted the newcomers, there were six of them. I checked their ports to make sure they were compatible with our electrodes. Everything was in order.
“Your host will be with you in just a moment,” I reassured the newcomers.
Happy thoughts surged back over me.
“I’m the only customer in front of you,” I said.
Eddie came surging to the front of the bar.
“I’ll be with you folks in just a minute,” he thought. “First, I have to plug this fellow in.”
They murmured appreciatively.
Eddie and I waded and flopped back to my chamber.
“Don’t let those guys get to you,” he said.
“They make me sick,” I said.
“They pay the bills, them and their women.”
“Hook me up, Eddie.”
He pulled down the harness and slid the electrodes into the pinholes. Immediately, it was as if a giant wave of cold water swept over me. All was coolness, dark, and comforting. I was gone. The world became a soothing Fibonacci spiral. All sense of time and space was lost. The virtual reality provided by telephones and computers did not compare with the reality of exploring my own brain. All thoughts stopped and geometric shapes flowed in and out of my mind-sight. Relationships, dreams, memories, and hopes all were translated into colors and music. I swam into the spiral.