QohelethPost-Self book I

Ioan Bălan — 2305

Ioan Bălan awoke to an urgent message.

Ey didn’t really like these, the sensorium messages. Much better to received paper messages. Letters. Notes. Missives. Scrawled signatures and careful handwriting.

Ey mostly just liked paper, if ey was honest. Always accruing more paper, more pens. Paper messages, rich messages attached to paper that played on its surface, ones that messed with the reader’s sensorium; ey sent them all. Eir friends found it perhaps a little disturbing. Antiques from a world more physical than this.

But to have one that just barged in on eir vision and endocrine system like this made em anxious. This one included a tiny jolt of adrenaline as an alert. Waking up to a zap of panic to have a partial sensory takeover felt rude.

At least ey didn’t have to get out of bed to deal with it.

The opacity on the message was turned up high so that even in eir dark room with eir eyes still closed (and heart still pounding), ey could see the fox. Bipedal, dressed sharply. It was sitting on a plain wooden chair situated in an empty room. The room had wood floors the same color as the chair. Something light: maple or pine. The walls were concrete where they weren’t glass. Outside the glass was a sere shortgrass prairie, a cloudy day.

The combination of the fox’s white fur, glistening and iridescent, combined with the room and landscape was all so painfully postmodern. Ey didn’t think emself much of a pomophobe, but this was…intense, to say the least.

“Hi Mx. Bălan," the fox was saying. It seemed to speak in italics, though how, Ioan could not say. A sense. A sensation. “I have a proposition for you."

Ioan grunted. The message was simplex, thank goodness. One way. No interaction required.

“My name is Dear, Also, The Tree That Was Felled — or just Dear — and I am a member of the Ode clade. I am an artist–" The word seemed to come with a tone of distaste. "–and…performer. I am not just telling you this to, ah, toot my own horn, I believe the phrase is, but to underline the fact that I am woefully unprepared for the situation at hand."

The fox smiled, looking tired, and continued. “I need some help finding someone. Someone that does not want to be found. It is personally important, but also potentially damaging to the image of our entire clade."

Ioan furrowed eir brow.

“This person has information, a name, that they have supposedly shared. We — the other members of my clade and myself — do not precisely know if they actually did, unfortunately, we just have word from some perisystem notification that someone said the Name." Ioan could hear the capital letter.

“I am sorry, I am getting sidetracked by details." The fox shook its head, ears flopping from side to side. “I try to be prepared for conversations and messages like this, but I am a little worked up. Excited, I guess. Can we meet?" It listed an address. “Even if only to talk. Even if you are not interested, I would still like to meet you. You seem neat."

The message ended.

Ioan lay in bed, thinking. It was still an hour before ey had to get up, and ey was loath to start the day before ey had to. Ey tried eir best to sleep for another ten minutes, at least, but eir mind kept slipping back to Dear’s request.

Why me? ey asked the backs of eir closed eyelids. Why hire a writer who fancies emself a historian as…what, a private investigator?

Ey spent a few minutes researching the public basics on Dear. Pronouns (it/its), species (fennec fox), age (old — the Ode clade was an early adopter), some of its art. Really out there stuff. No further hints as to why it would need em in particular. Something on the markets piqued its interest, perhaps?

With still a half hour before eir alarm, Ioan stretched out of bed. The least ey could do was get a shower and some coffee. If there were any reason that the founders of the system had included full sensoria in the works it must have been for those.

Those done and clothes donned — ey knew ey could never out-natty the fox, so the usual faux-academia garb it was — ey penned Dear a short note with a time. If it was day in that sim, or even late afternoon, it should get the note before dinner or bed.

Besides, ey thought. Maybe it will get the fox to stop using sensorium messages.

No luck. Less than thirty seconds later, Ioan received a sensorium ping of acknowledgment, a shiver up eir spine for eir trouble.

Ey forked and sent the copy of emself, #c1494bf, out to the meeting. Meanwhile, ey’d get some food, perhaps work on eir current project.

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