The Environment Engine

environment engine

Keerthi took a staggered breath as she rang the bell to Tarun’s flat. She watched a few holographic butterflies flutter in his garden as she could feel the ones fluttering in her stomach. “After all this time…” she sighed to herself. She didn’t have to look around to notice the old rusty wind chime that chimed squeakily in the artificial wind. She didn’t have to look up to remember the teal blue of the sky above his house. She had stood at this threshold a hundred times in her dreams and had never really crossed it. She opened her eyes just as Tarun opened the door.

He looked the same as he had in college. She scanned his tousled brown hair for any whites, his wide forehead for any lines, or his taut t-shirt for signs of a beer belly, nothing. He was exactly the same as he was in her dream where at this point he would gather her into him for a kiss.

“ Hey Keru, come on in…” he barely looked at her and walked back into the house.

She stepped into the house and back into all the summers of her college days. There was the same dimly lit room, the same half deflated bean bag furniture and the smell of Tarun’s musk that an ocean-scented room freshener was trying hard to mask. Nothing had changed except for the second bedroom of the house that had obviously been converted into an experience engine.

Tarun walked back with a bowl of chips and two beers and handed her a beer along with his lopsided grin. Keerthi suppressed the butterflies in her stomach. This was why it was so difficult with Tarun, he hadn’t changed at all and she knew he never would.

“So what is this about Tarun?” She took a sip of her beer.

Tarun drank his beer and stared at the wall behind her. In her head, it was a look of realization, when Tarun finally saw that his soulmate stood right beside him, always had and always would. She shook herself, hard.

“I needed her your help with something,” Tarun said, he walked to the experience engine and opened its door.

“If this is about defeating another boss in that stupid game of yours, forget it. I have better things to do.” Keerthi said.

“Please Keru, don’t pretend you have a life, it’s just me. We will get to the next level in my stupid game. But, this is about something else.” Tarun walked into the room.

Keerthi tried to resent his mock condescension and his confidence that he knew her life down to the dot, and for the thousandth time, she failed. She chugged the last of her beer and entered the room.

A warm sea breeze lifted her hair and her bare feet sank into the white sand. The door closed behind her, she turned to find a pristine row of coconut trees swaying in the breeze. A dreamy sun was setting into a lulled ocean, like a tired bather entering a hot tub. The waves crashed into the white beach a little too rhythmically. Tarun stood at the edge of the water wearing only swim shorts and a smile. Continue reading

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