Chapter 3 – Friends

Walking was not enough. So I ran. As fast as I could. I ran through the park and its high trees until I was out of breath. I sat on a bench, and texted my friends to go for a drink.
I am in the bar now.  They are arriving one after the other.  Sue and William, Patrick and Sarah, Rose, Emily, Jon, Abby, Tom and Peter. Everybody seems so happy to be here. They all look at me with curiosity.
William starts: – Great news you wrote. This is followed by the others: –tell us, please tell us, tell us, tell us.
– Shush everybody! Believe me, I’ll be happy to answer. It’s so amazing. I was just as surprised as you. Never thought it could happen. Had a feeling though…
– Are you going to tell us, or shall we beg you on our knees?
That was Tom.
– May I take your order?
That was the waiter. Poor guy. He just received annoyed looks.
– White Star beers for everyone please, I quickly say.
The guy almost runs away after registering the order on his device.

No words, just wide-eyed looks , and some raised eyebrows, staring at me now.
– I won’t tell you anything, but I’ll show you!
And I proudly exhibit the precious sheet of paper I received yesterday morning in front of their eyes.
– You won the lottery!
– Yes, Abbie, I did.
– The space travel one.
–  Indeed Peter.
– Gee! The chance you have.
– If my Mum could hear you, Jon.
– Does she already know? asks Sarah.
– I am afraid she does. I was on the phone with her a few hours ago. She forbids me to go.
– Really? Why? says Emily.
– Unsafe. I am going to lose my mind.
– Oh, I see. She is one of those people who think all this is just a kind of junkie dream. No travel, but ravings brought on by bad people to credulous ones.
– You’re perfectly right, Rose. And she will do everything to convince me.
– But are we so sure this thing is real?
– Oh come on, Patrick, says Sarah. You really think if it weren’t, it wouldn’t have been discovered yet? I mean for sure. Not suspicions or suppositions. But proofs.
– They use a gas catalyzer. Can’t it be considered a drug? he answers.
– Civilization,  aliens’ shapes, languages, always discovered in the same order? A drug causing almost the same “dreams” to everybody having it? Again, and again? Seriously?
– Autosuggestion, Beth. Based on former testimonies. It could be.
– Oh come on. How do you explain new languages then? Cooperative ravings? These languages were reported in pieces by different people before it began to take shape.
– Ok Beth, I give up. Honestly, I would really like to be in your place. To feel it myself. Lucky you!
– Even if you think it could be a just the drug?
– It could be or not. What I wanted to say, concerning minds, was that you can’t have any certainty. Only strong beliefs. And even if I question it, I really want to believe it is true. What do you think? I subscribed to this lottery too.
– Ah, the beers are arriving.

The waiter lays down a glass in front of each of us. The price appears on the bill screen all around the table.
– Ladies, gentlemen: cheers! To space travel!
– To space travel!
– Oh my God! Don’t tell me you’re part of those birdbrains!
The voice is at my back. I turn to see whose it is.
A red-headed man in his forties, a ginger, apparently drunk, considering his way of speaking.
– Don’t look at me like that. He shakes his head . How is it possible to wish to become a voyeur?
– A Snooper!
– Seriously? You think that’s better? Watching people who have no idea they’re being observed? It is just voyeurism.
– Not being seen doesn’t mean not knowing how to behave.
– Oh, good girl. Have you ever heard of temptation? Nobody to blame you if you don’t do it the right way. No reproach, no punishment, no consequence. Believe me, these travels will dirty your mind. Forever.
– Come on, space travel can’t change what you deeply are. If you aren’t a voyeur on Earth, you won’t be elsewhere, says Tom
– Oh really. Tell me where the hell on Earth you can be in front of someone without being seen?
– Two-way mirrors.
– Ha ha. Funny. They are not everywhere. I tell you, opportunity leads to temptation. That’s all! Maybe you’ll resist the first few times, but one day, you will forget the notion of privacy. I know it. I’ve lost my soul over there. I thought I was curious, but it wasn’t curiosity, it was poison.
I have to say this was a question that bothered me: how can I be sure to behave? How will these people react if one day they were aware of being observed? How will I react myself at this type of revelation?
– Hey guys, let’s drink our beers and go, I say.
– Yeah, drink your beers and run, mumbles “Ginger”. Don’t listen to me, and you’ll be lost.
I never drank a beer that fast. My friends neither. I lay my cash card on the table.
It’s on me, I say. I touch the green circle of my card with my forefinger and the red one with my thumb after the amount has blinked on the bill screen. Payment accepted, says the screen.

– To the park?  I ask.
– Why not?
– Let’s go!
– Good idea.
– Wherever you want.
– The park will be perfect.
– Let’s go.
– Er, I’ve to go to the loo.



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