When Mauris came, her heart swelled with joy – or as near the real thing as she could recall. Just to see another person, to hear another voice was enough: a single green shoot in the desert.
Mauris was a magician, able to infuse colour into the grey things of Heaven. Food regained its savour, sex its thrill; he offered her the draught of sensation, and like a person dying of thirst, she drank from it again and again. He made her alive – though he had never been.
“I was a command hub,” he had explained, “an artificial construct, designed to model reality, to predict and so survive. Simulation comes naturally to me.”
“So all this… " she indicated the colours, the smell of coffee, the gramophone playing the Sibelius 2nd – which Mauris made so real, “is just an illusion?”
He shrugged. “You feel a thing, or you think you feel a thing. Is there a difference?”
Aila had no answer – but another question to ask:
“If this is Heaven, the repository of billions of souls – where are all those other people?”