For someone who hated to shop
, I was promised
it was going to be an adventure like no other
. With goods never made available to the general public
. The likes of which I would not believe possible.
Even getting to their port took more connections than I care to mention. But disembarking from the ship was only the first step
among what I could only call a series of interviews into their inner circles
. Each person I talked to would decide which interviewer I talked to next. Apparently they were running me through a filter
to find a shop specifically targeted towards whatever category of personality
they thought I fit in.
I would live with each interviewer for a day. We would talk. They would observe my behavior. And the next morning they would take me to a new person's house. Each trip seemed intentionally disorienting, so that I would never be able to find my own way through their streets without their help. If there were criminals among them, I would have been completely at their mercy, but that was the price to be paid
for the privilege to shop
at their markets.
After nearly a month of constant conversations with countless family members, I was finally led through a throng of people
towards the shop they had chosen for me.
"Welcome, welcome!" The shopkeeper came at me
with outstretched arms.
I didn't feel comfortable around their customs and kept my distance.
The shopkeeper seemed mildly offended but shook it off. "My associates find customer good, no?" He smiled.
"Um, so what am I supposed to do now?
Just look around?"
"Yes, yes, look, look, see what like!"
The shelves were scattered with strange dusty objects, blinking electronics, and things I was afraid to ask about. There were a few other shoppers milling about as well, but they looked like townspeople while I was the only one dressed like an outsider. They gave me knowing smiles
as if I were a child and they were my parents.
"The prices here
are all incredibly high," I noted aloud to the shopkeeper.
"I make living," he said. "These not anywhere!"
"Like this," I said holding up a gadget. "It looks like a tablet I could get anywhere for a fraction of the price
"Not any, no normal. It condition life."
"Condition life?" I asked.
"People come house. They think program. You want love, they think program."
"You're saying this is some kind of mind control device
"Yes, yes," he said. "It make think new idea. Change subject. Force sound, force pictures."
"Well, I'm not sure my friends will appreciate me
forcing random thoughts on them."
I noticed a customer walk out of the store with two large stools under her arms. "Wait, did that lady just steal from your shop?"
"No, no. She family. Free take."
"Oh, so I have to pay but she doesn't?"
"Family, friend take. Sometime return. Sometime not. No important."
"How about me then? Think I can at least get a discount here?"
"I like, maybe. Different, you no return. Family, friend no leave."
"Alright, I'll take whatever you're willing to offer
then. Maybe one day, I'll try to make a home in this city
, who knows."
"If happen, you come. We friend, you look good person. Here, show back."
He led me through some curtains into a room where the lights were dim. "This magic," he said. "For you, good price."
A ball of light floated above a velvet cushion. It definitely looked magical. But I couldn't tell if they were doing it with mirrors, trick lighting, or some other tomfoolery.
"What does it do?
" I asked.
"Magnify delusions," the shopkeeper said. "Focus you, make real."
"It magnifies delusions? Is that supposed to be a good thing?"
, make real."
"It makes my delusions real?"
"Yes, yes," he nodded. "Focus mind, change perception forever."
"Wait, all it does is change my perceptions? How does that help
"Forever, it forever, reality no matter."
"What do you mean reality doesn't matter
? Of course it does. I don't want to live in a permanent delusion
"Everything here permanent," the shopkeeper smiled, "is delusion."