The kitten was hungry. The kitten rubbed against the girl’s face. Forward. Backward. Hair was getting everywhere. Purr, purr. Feed me. Wake up and feed me! How insistent.
“Gak! Sammy!” Arcela sat bolt-straight and sputtered. Her mouth was full of cat hair and it was sticking to her tongue. Which was dry. She had a terrible fear she might inhale one of these hairs and choke on it so she jumped out of bed and rushed to the bathroom where she stuck her mouth under the tap and rinsed repeatedly until there were only two hairs left. They were so elusive she spent several minutes trying to pry them from her tongue. Or wherever they were. On the way back to her bedroom she tripped over Ella, the calm kitten, who usually liked to relax in places such as the middle of the floor. She was mellow. Perhaps a little too mellow.
“Sam you need to chill out. I’m tired of having your coat for breakfast.” Arcela hitched up her low-slung pyjama pants and unwrapped her hair to inspect her braided pigtails. “And Ella maybe you need some…some…whatever. You need to stop lying in the middle of the floor!” Sam was at Arcela’s feet, meowing insistently and weaving between and around her ankles. She picked her up and rubbed her decidedly bald nose against the cat’s fuzzy one. “Okay. Breakfast, kids!”
Over a bowl of Cheerios she lectured the cats on the virtues of staying out of her laundry basket. She was facing the specter of having to purchase more shirts because the cats couldn’t resist jumping into her piles of pillowy silken clothing. It was all lounge wear, this was true, but in recent years she’d become somewhat obsessed about the condition of her clothing. She didn’t mind bumming around in something grungy as long as she wasn’t trying to be in a mood. When she was in a writing mood or feeling luxurious in general she would put on some silk pyjamas or some satin boxing shorts and a soft cotton t-shirt. The t-shirts were safe, they always went back into shape. Satin, not so much. Her pretties were getting runs and snags and holes in them and she just hadn’t mastered the art yet of putting all her laundry in one spot. Furthermore, she couldn’t be expected to listen to the tiny howls of these two if she made them stay outside of her bedroom. She sighed and crunched into a mouthful of cereal. Her fundamental laziness caught her every time.
There wasn’t a lot of work to be done today. She was off, thank heaven for government holidays. There was some shopping to do and she needed to head to the dealership to check on Rip’s new effigy. There wasn’t much she could do in response to that but smile and nod. There wasn’t much that Rip needed in this world but good food, good music, and a stack of effigies to keep him happy. She was used to it by now. Leaving the kitties to finish their long-awaited breakfast she got dressed and headed out for the day.
Arcela’s first stop was the dealership. The associates knew her well now, she’d been in there so many times with Rip. She enjoyed a good rapport with the staff. They knew she was a soldier effigy engineer and were always after her to help them custom craft effigies. Rip’s new effigy was a model, unlike his previous ones which were direct copies of him. Arcela wasn’t that fond of the limitations placed on regular effigy models, but this was mainly a consequence of her work with them. Once she reached the dealership she walked into the sales office and Felicia Isnow greeted her with a smile and a warm hug.
“Cella, how are you?” Felicia had given her this nickname at the first party she attended at her house. Felicia’s husband Will was known for throwing fabulous gatherings. She’d met Felicia on one of her first trips in to the dealership with Rip. He was getting a new effigy and Felicia was happy to have met Arcela, declaring “so this is the girl you’ve been gushing over, eh?” She’d been summarily invited to one of Felicia and Will’s parties, and Rip was chagrined because it had taken him months to get invited. The night of the party Will met and charmed her. She was red and giggling like a schoolgirl by the time she withstood the hand kisses and well-crafted compliments. Felicia had come up and said “She’s just like a piece of art isn’t she? Like a musical instrument. Let’s call you Cella, like a cello.” It stuck, and Arcela felt flattered that she’d been so quickly accepted.
Felicia led her to the ready room where the effigies were kept. As Arcela scanned the containers, she was amazed at the variety of effigies that people purchased. One had purple skin, one had fangs. She shook her head and chuckled. She paused at a case containing an effigy of a beautiful, green-skinned asian girl. It had long white hair that fell in snowy cascades over its shoulders. She wondered what color its eyes were.
“That one’s for a game at a shooting gallery. She’s some kind of alien soldier for a role playing game.” Felicia chirped cheerily. “Seems a shame to put such a beautiful effigy to waste.” Arcela mm’ed in agreement, realizing the pilot probably had enough money to spend to have an effigy killed in a pretend battle.
“I’ve seen more expensive models go down, but not nearly as attractive,” she replied softly. She followed Felicia to a container in the corner of the room. When she stepped in front of it she gasped, covered her hand with her mouth. Inside was a hulking creature with bony plates around the eyes and heavily clawed hands. “What is this?”
“That’s Rip’s. He wanted it for his game. It’s something, isn’t it?” Felicia looked at the effigy with admiration. “It took us quite a while to come up with this one. We went through the books half the night to find all the features he could add.”
“Must have cost him a mint.” Arcela couldn’t stop staring. This creature was barely human-looking. Rip’s new game must be very interesting for him to have spent so much on this thing. Role playing games had taken on a new dimension since Glaen’s innovations. Effigies, in particular, had influenced live action role playing to a great degree. The hyperreality diversions took role playing to a new height, but once effigies were introduced it became nearly a parallel world. People could wander the world in their assumed personas, never having to reveal their true selves to one another. Unlike the hyperdiversions which required the users to be immobile, effigies allowed them to roam the earth incognito.