Centaur tapped lazily at a small white icon on the screen of the Cloud, lay back on his pillows and waited for the pharmaceuticals to take effect. He didn’t have to wait very long. Almost instantly, a rush of pure pleasure coursed powerfully through his blood stream and into his brain, a flood of ones and zeroes digitally simulating the effects of pure heroin. After the initial rush had abated, Centaur lay there in a dreamy daze, musing absent-mindedly on the safely mediated wonders of the Cloud. In the bad old days, he had heard it said, people used to spend large sums of cash on such pleasures, risking the perils of a contaminated needle, a criminal record and the untold horrors of addiction. But the Cloud rendered all of these inconveniences quaint relics of the past. Centaur drifted off into a relaxing haze.
When he woke several orbs later, he was feeling pleasantly aroused. He reached out for the Cloud on the bedside table and tapped again at the screen. Toggling idly through a series of avatars, he found the one he was looking for. Tonight he would summon Elektra. He had missed Elektra’s charms lately. Centaur dropped the Cloud on the bed, closed his eyes to the brightness of the room and found himself sitting in the garden of a Greek taverna. It was a sultry Mediterranean evening. Cicadas buzzed among the trees. Birds issued fluty calls. The air was heavy with the perfume of exotic flowers. The table was lit by a solitary lantern. Elektra was seated opposite him, wearing a long flowing dress of purple silk. Her honey-brown hair was tied up in a bunch above her head, emphasising her long, brown slender neck. Spiral-shaped earrings dangled from her lobes. Her almond eyes smiled sadly at him as her lips began to move. ‘How could you neglect me for so long, Centaur?’ She wore a fragrant scent, which teased his nostrils. The overall effect was so intoxicating he couldn’t take his eyes off her. At that moment waiters dressed as satyrs appeared from the darkness armed with plates of food: dolmades, hummus, and delicious flat breads. One waiter filled the couple’s silver goblets with blood red wine. ‘Never mind that. Let’s eat,’ Centaur murmured, taking a deep draft from his goblet and for the first time noticing the spangled stillness of the starlit sky. They ate in silence. The meal over, their stomachs full and their minds gently intoxicated by the wine, Centaur and Elektra strolled hand in hand down to the plunge pool beside the stream. Slipping off their clothes, they bathed gratefully in the clear waters. Elektra was an eager lover, taking him to heights of ecstasy that he could scarcely have imagined. Afterwards, they lay exhausted for some time on the bank of the stream, their bodies entwined, gazing up at the blinking stars. Centaur couldn’t remember falling asleep. It wasn’t until the Cloud’s insistent bleep roused him from his deep slumbers that he realised he was back in his room in Century Towers.