“In my opinion, Last Take on Never is your best song,” Brandon said.  “Definitely my favourite…,” he smiled and moved anxiously in his chair. Ron stared at him, still gaining familiarity with his surroundings.

They were seven people sitting somewhere in the Chihuahuan desert. Ron was in the middle and the others sat in a half circle in front of him. The scenario was quite typical, hilly and cactus-strewn. “Were those San Pedros?”  Ron wondered. As they were in this desolate location, Ron felt amused at the thought of a white camper storming out of nowhere, with Walter White jumping out wearing a gas mask… not going to happen.

Staring at Brandon, sitting next to a rock to the left of him, a green box opened on the upper left side of his visual,  with a green blinking cursor and soon letters and words followed:

“Brandon Tunsman

20 years old.

Hometown: Seattle, USA

Job: Social Marketer at Vake ltd.

Hobbies & Interests: Skateboarding,

Stoner Music, Guitars.”

Ron said: “Being a guitar guy, I was wondering whether you’ve heard my guitar solo on Last Take on Never on my last live DVD?..”

Brandon thought a while, weighing his words:  “Well…that was a heck of a solo, really gilmorish and epic but personally, I’m more of a studio album guy…”

  

“Yeah, me too,”  Ron thought. His chair was unstable on the rocky terrain. Oddly enough, it was these chairs that somehow managed to really capture his attention. They were white folding metal beach chairs, with green elastic straps entwined cross-wise making the back and seating pad. He hadn’t seen that type in ages. It was really old stuff. They brought to his mind certain childhood images of the chairs surrounded by people on the beach. Then, something about children on the beach with their parents… What da fuck? These were not his memories. His parents both died when he was a boy, yet these images were somehow vivid in his head.

He looked to the right and saw Malila, a sweet Indian girl smiling at him. A flashing script appeared from the right side, and kept moving below her chin towards the other members of their group: “The easiest and cheapest way to transfer money abroad – transferfundsnow.com.”

“Oh shit!”  Ron thought. “I need to talk to Jurgen about these awful intrusions.”  He looked to the right, the last person sitting was a girl, with a  pale white skin, black hair and all dressed up in black. Sort of a Goth-Cyber chick, quite good looking, not particularly sexy though. Ron fixated his glance on her, waiting for the info box to open on his left upper visual to reveal some info on this peculiar desert creature. The cursor started blinking but absolutely nothing  followed. “Hmmm,”  Ron thought to himself, “Good job, Sweden!”

In stark contrast to all the others, the girl didn’t seem to care much about him. She was minding her own business, picking spines out an Lechuguilla plant. Feeling a rush of anxiety caused by a blow to his fragile artist ego, he drove himself further into this childish demeanor with a patronizing: “And what about you? What’s your favourite song?”

The girl didn’t seem to have heard him. She kept messing around with the bush and an awkward silence formed around them. The others – Brandon, Hamid, Kathy, Malila and Stephan – didn’t seem to acknowledge their interaction. It was as if they were frozen into apathy.

Finally she responded. “I don’t really like your music,” she said continuing her activity. Ron moved uneasily in his chair. “That was quite harsh,” he managed to squeeze this queer lucid deliberation, amid the paranoia that led him to his next obvious yet nevertheless pathetic exclamation:  “Then why are you here?”

“Hmm,” she responded thoughtfully, while continuing the depilation of the poor Lechuguilla plant. “Now that’s a good question. What about you? Why are you here?” For the first time she raised her glance to look straight towards him, her curious grin revealing a pawky childish face and deep green eyes. He couldn’t look away, it was as if he was frozen by her glance. Suddenly she started getting closer to him, without actually moving. Proportions around him started to distort, he felt he was falling….

Darkness…

Ron took off his Oculus headset and looked around his Tel Aviv studio apartment. His manager, Micha, was on the couch behind him, with a “what the fuck just happened?” expression. Jurgen, the tech-guy from Spotify was on video chat. “Sorry guys, I don’t exactly know what happened. I guess the VR connections are just not stable enough yet. But we managed to go through a 40 minute session, that’s almost the entire program. We’ve managed to squeeze in enough sponsor content. So I guess overall the whole thing was worthwhile for you as well as for us.” Ron was disconnecting the pulse sensor from his finger. “Jurgen, dude, do you think it would be possible to avoid these advertising banners floating around? It’s kind of annoying…”

“Oh I’m sorry about that,” Jurgen laughed in a typical embarrassed nordic smirk:  “We are working on a way to de-couple the ads from the VR feed. That way the banners would only appear on video and not in your actual surroundings… hope to have news on that soon.”

“Ooooook, Jurg man, see you in three weeks then, right?” Ron said. “Absolutely! Have a nice evening! You too Micha.” He went offline. Ron lit a cigarette and sat on the couch next to his manager.

The Engagement Room was the new big thing from Spotify. With virtual reality technology booming, integration with social media opened some interesting features. An interface was created that could bring a small group of fans to meet with their favourite artist in a selected virtual reality environment. In Ron’s case, his group of six fans chose the Chihuahuan desert, reminiscent of the Breaking Bad series landscape. The session was broadcasted live on video, and up-and-coming artists such as Ron really benefitted in terms of exposure and ad income.

“I think it went quite well, no?” Micha said with a satisfied look.

Ron was still a bit off axis adapting to the environment and processing what just went on. “Yeah, I guess it was OK, I think….”

“I’m gonna go now, got some stuff to do,” Micha stood up and put his phone in his pocket. “Don’t forget about the gig tomorrow, be there early so we can make a decent soundcheck…”

He went towards the door and Ron said:

“Micha?”

“Yeah?”

“What was the deal with that girl?”

“What girl?”

“Black hair, black boots, black everything, goth cyber fuck something….the last one…”

“Uh? Which one?”

“The one playing with the bush…”

“A girl was playing with her bush? Were we on the same website?…”

“No…the one I was talking to at the end…”

“The Indian girl?”

“No…”

“Listen man, I really gotta go…”

“OK man, never mind…”

Micha opened the door and left.        

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One thought on “The Engagement Room – Chapter 1

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