Sergio Nasrallah Whitehurst was very happy. Terrifying fortunes were at his disposal. A careful, low blend of chemically flawless amphetamines and opiates made the trip to New York an epic waking dream. In their moment in the hotel lobby, Judith dealt with the front desk, while his other travelling courtesan, Mitsuko, rubbed his neck.
He wore dark sunglasses carved from the shell of a dwindling species of armadillo, and below the shades, a blank expression. It wasn’t that the years of unremitting pleasure had jaded him. Rather, one of the only conditions applied to his exorbitant existence was that no one must know how deliriously happy he was.
A mix of beautiful and powerful people traversed the gleaming design of the inlaid marble floor. The beautiful outnumbered the powerful by a carefully modulated ratio of three-point-one-five to one. The hotel was deliberately unknown to most, specialized in the gleaming and meticulous peak of global civilization. Sergio recognized some of people in the lobby from similar hotels in cities around the world, but gave no indication. As a group, they had more in common with one another than with their families or with anyone in the cities they visited.
Nearly breaking his impassivity, he gave a nearly imperceptible nod to a tall young man, pale with fine features, equally impassive, equally dark sunglasses. The young man wore his sports jacket draped over his shoulders. And Sergio knew why. The thought created a warmth that spread through his belly, and suffused the spring afternoon, and washed in with the whoosh of the revolving door. Mitsuko could sense what was happening and rubbed his neck more attentively, breathed wordlessly into his ear. As Judith returned from the desk, one of the sleeves of the jacket Sergio had draped on his shoulders became slightly heavier.
Judith and Mitsuko walked him to the nested series of rooms that formed his suite. There they’d feed him on the spinal fluid of whales and the ovaries of eagles, while a string quartet played masterpieces, and special movies played. Then they’d cut his hair, strip him nude, deposit his jacket in the refrigerated closet, wash and massage him. Mitsuko, a doctor, would administer more of whatever might better approximate the ever-retreating pinnacle of sensory perfection.
Thus prepared, Sergio would pass naked, deeper into the suite, through a completely empty white room, and ultimately into the sanctum. There, whores waited, and the final restrictions would finally depart from Sergio’s behavior. They were beautiful women, skin smooth and supple as still water. The women were new, as they always were, and had been prepared before his arrival. They had been rubbed with oil. They had been dressed in sparse clothing alternately diaphanous, skintight and absurd. They had been drugged, mechanically stimulated and left quivering on the edge of orgasm. And weeks before, they had been blinded, with whips.
No one, not even the highly trained and professional whores, could be allowed to witness how utterly and flawlessly happy Sergio was. If word got out, even as a whisper among the transient, sequestered and pampered community of such women, about the scale and scope of his persistent ecstasy, the whole edifice of global civilization would, sooner or later, go up in flames.
Sergio spent half a day and most of the night in his sanctum, too happy to wonder where the women came from or where they’d be relegated afterwards. Such stunning beauties, with the most titillating and yet soothing appearances and the most deeply evocative smells, they ran together in his mind into a single deeply sexual magna mater, so that his culmination with them mimicked something as profound as the answer to his own birth.
Mitsuko and Judith took turns waiting in the blank room outside for what the whores brought from the sanctum.
At the end of the session, Judith and Mitsuko helped Sergio from the innermost chamber, to the room of sofas, where Judith draped a silk robe over his shoulders. Mitsuko, also a doctor, inserted the catheter, and checked that the line ran into the sleeves of the robe. Then Judith began to tell Sergio a perfect story.
“I had a thought,” he said, interrupting Judith’s story.
“Yes?” Judith responded. Mitsuko’s focus was elsewhere.
“It’s not a thought, more like something I saw, in the other room, earlier. Do you want to know what it was?” his eyes were wide, his pupils huge, black mirrors in a room that had no mirrors at all.
“Of course, honey.”
“I saw a horse, in a tunnel, like the tunnels where the trains run and the sewers go. But it was a weird horse. It has the, you know, the, on its head, it had a…”
“A horn? Like a unicorn?” Judith offered.
“Yes. It was this white unicorn, just running through the subway, in the tunnel, with the garbage. Then there were two of them. Then I blinked and the tunnels were full of unicorns. And they started running out of the tunnels, poking their horns out of the sewer grates and out of the pipes, until the whole city started to sway, like it was rocking on a sea of them, a sea of unicorns.”
“Wow, that’s really good.”
“Yeah. It is.”
Sergio blinked his eyes shut. The effort of speaking exhausted him. It felt good to talk. It felt good to stop, too, though. It felt good to be tired. What Mitsuko was doing in his robe felt good, too. Sergio Nasrallah Whitehurst was very happy.
Above him, Judith silently recited Sergio’s unicorn blather back to herself, memorizing it. It probably didn’t matter. But they paid her like they did, more than any model-gorgeous Ivy-educated doctor could hope to make in a lifetime, to be thorough.
The next day, Sergio was fed a salad of vegetables grown below the floorboards of a Salzburg opera house, and an iridescent blood pudding made from a strange deep-sea fish that had to be caught in special pressurized tanks, lest it explode on its trip to the surface.
Once he’d digested his meal breakfast the glow of tv shows edited to reveal their secret meanings, he went back into the sanctum, to meet with a fresh quartet of blinded whores. At lunch, Judith and Mitsuko draped a fresh robe over his shoulders. He was given a shot of vitamins, stimulants and opioids the catheter reinserted, and he enjoyed a large bone bowl of ice cream made from the breast milk of women only slightly less wealthy than himself.
The knock on the door was a formality. The hotel had dozens of redundant measures to keep unwanted visitors from making it as far as the lobby. Sergio lifted his hand slightly. Mitsuko sashayed over and put his sunglasses on for him, then caressed his shoulders gently.
Judith opened the door and kissed each of cheek of a man who wore a suit. Sergio barely looked up, grunted, and continued with his ice cream. It was delicious.
The man’s dark suit was carefully chosen and fitted seemingly better than his own skin. He was familiar, maybe someone Sergio knew and maybe just one of an impeccable species that visited Sergio wherever he was, be it Kyoto, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg or New York. The man was a banker. Federal Reserve, PBC, Bank of England, World Bank, something, maybe all of them. Sergio wasn’t a child, he heard things. It was all just so incredibly boring, compared to the sanctum, the special movies, his visions, or the gel capsule of his airplane. So boring.
He could tell that the banker’s boring words were almost as carefully chosen as the words he didn’t say. The banker and Judith went to the suite’s sealed room. All the hotels, everywhere, had that room. It was full of glass tubes, lit screens, gas torches and small, complicated machines. It was cold in there, and boring, so Sergio didn’t bother with it. From the sealed room, he could hear Judith talking to the banker, catching the word “unicorn,” though he couldn’t tell if she was telling the story right. At the end, the banker spoke, saying little, as he always did.
“I wonder where he ever heard about sewers,” the banker said.
Mitsuko retrieved his jackets and robes from the refrigerated closet. The sleeves were heavy, full of fluid, straining the impeccable fabric slightly. Judith removed the blind whores’ crystal flasks from a refrigerator in the sealed room.
Judith and the banker worked in the little laboratory while Mitsuko kept Sergio occupied. She knew how to do things, because she was a doctor, she said. The thing she at that moment did made Sergio wild with wonder at what medical school must be like.
Judith and the banker were in there for a while, quietly working, words drifting out like boring scraps of paper into an atmosphere of riotous pleasure. Finally, things ran their course and Sergio lost interest in Mitsuko and in his dreams of medical school. Dangerously close to post-coital boredom, he could overhear their conversation in the next room.
“I’m just asking, because they’re going to ask me,” the banker was said.
“This is a very consistent batch. It represents both hemispheres and the twelve main time zones. It represents all six methods of extraction, and both the cream and the dregs, so to speak. The cocktails have been evenly administered and his diet has been optimal. You can ask Mitsuko.”
“I know you two are always spot on. But with these levels, I have to ask.”
“Other than the unicorn talk, everything went as it always does.”
The crisp and precise man left the boring bright room and strolled through Sergio’s range of vision, somewhat less crisply than before. He took out a satellite phone, with an oversized antenna like a black unicorn’s horn. He dialed, put the device to his ear, listened patiently, dialed some more, then repeated the process a few times.
Finally, the banker took a nervous breath to speak to the person he was calling. Stark fear replaced careful disinterest on the man’s closely shaven face. His adam’s apple struggled just above the opalescent blue silk of his necktie. And having swallowed, the banker could speak.
“Sell,” he said.
BIO: Colin Dodds grew up in Massachusetts and completed his education in New York City, where he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife Samantha. You can find more of his work at thecolindodds.com.